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The Illustrations in this volume were engraved and printed at the 
Menpes Press under Mr. Menpes's direction 

An original etching by James M'Neill Whistler. 










HCJf . 

Zo ©orotb^ 

By Mortimer Menpes. 




Whistler the Exaggerated ....... xix 

In the Day's Round ........ 1 


Master and Followers ........ 13 

Whistler the Man ........ 31 


Whistler the Painter ........ 67 


Whistler the Etcher . . . . . . . . 85 


Whistler and the Royal Society of British Artists . . 103 





Whistler and the One-Man Show . . . ... 11 '3 


Whistler on House Decoration ...... 125 


Whistler ox His Travels 133 


In connection with the Illustrations, Mr. Mortimer Menpes desires to acknow- 
ledge the kindness and courtesy of Lady Meux, Mr. J. J. Cowan, Mr. Edmund 
Davis, Mr. W. Flower, Mr. Louis Huth, Mr. C. W. Dowdeswell, Messrs. 
Dowdeswell & Dowoeswells, Ltd., and Messrs. Laurie & Co. 

The Menpes Children ...... 

An original etching by James M'Neill Whistler. 

. Frontispiece 



1. James M'Neill Whistler . 

By Mortimer Menpes. 

2. St. Paul's xviii 

From a pen-and-ink drawing in the possession of Mortimer 
Menpes. The feather end of the quill pen was used as a 
brush for the washes. 

3. Lady Meux xx 

From a pen-and-ink drawing in the possession of C. W. 
Dowdeswell, Esq. The pen-holder and the finger were 
freely used as a brush in the execution of the drawing. 

4. The Wood 

Signed by "J. M. Whistler" and "Seymour Haden," done 
in collaboration. 

5. Street at Saverne .... 

6. La Vieille aux Loques 

7. A Bye Canal, Venice 

From a pastel in the possession of Louis Huth, Esq. 

8. The Kitchen ......... 4 

9. Paris — The Isle de la Cite ...... 6 

10. Thames Warehouses ....... 8 

11. Limehouse .......... 8 







12. Tyzac Whiteley and Co. 

First state. 

13. Black and Gold, Venice 

From a pastel in the possession of Louis Huth, Esq. 

14. Whistler . 

15. FlNETTE 

16. The Miser 

17. Fumette, Standing 

18. Fumette's Bent Head 

19. The Salute, Venice . 

From a pastel in the possession of Louis Huth, Esq. 

20. Annie Haden 

21. Under Old Battersea Bridge . 

With boat in charcoal, first state. 

22. The Silk Dress 

Undescribed in Wedmore's Catalogue. 

23. Mr. Mann 

24). Rotherhithe ...... 

Rare state with white boat. 

25. Axenfeld ....... 

26. The Forge 

27. Venice 

From a pastel in the possession of Lady Meux 

28. Millbank 

Unique impression with the word " not " added 

29. The Little Forge .... 

Early proof before monogram. 

30. Chelsea Wharf .... 

31. Amsterdam ..... 

Etched from the Tolhuis, early state. 

32. Weary 

33. St. Mark's, Blue and Gold 

From the oil-painting in the possession of J. J. Cowan, 

















Speke Hall ... i .... . 

Dry-point figure without monogram. 




Speke Hall ......... 

Etched figure touched with wash. 



Speke Hall ......... 

Etched figure completed with monogram. 



Model Resting ......... 



Whistler's Mother ........ 



Dorothy Menpes 

From an oil-painting in the possession of Dorothy Menpes. 



The Velvet Dress ........ 



Elinor Leyland ........ 

Very early proof. 



Maude .......... 

Trial proof, with dark tippet. 




With fur tippet indicated in wash. 



Maude .......... 

Trial proof, with light tippet. 



Maude .......... 

Trial proof, without tippet. 



Maude .......... 

Final proof, with rich fur tippet. 



Maude, Seated ......... 

First state, with full face. 



Maude, Seated ......... 

Second state, face redrawn three-quarters. 



Moreby Hall, Interior ....... 

From a water-colour drawing in the possession of J. J. 
Cowan, Esq. 

Tillie — A Model ........ 

Elaborately touched in water colour. 




Seated Girl ......... 

Unique state. 

The Desk 

Trial proof, third state. 




53. The Desk ..... 

Trial proof. 

54. Agnes .... 

55. Brown and Gold — " Lillie in our Alley " 

From a water-colour drawing in the possession of J. J. 
Cowan, Esq. 

56. The Model, Lying Down . 

57. The Boy .... 

First state, unique. 

58. The Boy .... 

59. Swinburne .... 

60. Child on a Couch 

61. Note in Blue and Opal — The Sun Cloud 

From an oil-painting in the possession of W. Flower, Esq. 

62. Sketch of a Girl, Nude . 

Second state, washed with Indian ink. 

63. Steamboats off the Tower 

64. Two Ships ...... 

Second state. 

65. The Piano 

First proof, without butterfly. 

66. Speke Shore ..... 

67. "Pink and Rose"— The Mother's Sleep 

From a water-colour drawing in the possession of J. J 
Cowan, Esq. 

68. The Dam Wood 

First proof. 

69. Price's Candle Works 

Very early proof. 

70. Battersea, Dawn 

Early state. 

71. A Sketch from Billingsgate 

Second state. 

72. Wych Street . 

Butterfly in pencil within plate mark, and signed " Whistler 
1st proof." 















73. Nocturne — Amsterdam in Snow ..... 82 

From a water-colour drawing in the possession of J. J. 
Cowan, Esq. 

74. Temple Bar 84 

Trial proof. 

75. Temple Bar 84 

76. The Thames towards Erith . . . . . . 86 

77. From Pickled-Herring Stairs ...... 86 

Trial proof, without dry point. 

78. From Pickled-Herring Stairs ...... 86 

79. Master Menpes 88 

From a water-colour drawing in the possession of Mrs. Menpes. 

80. Lord Wolseley . . . . . . . . 90 

81. Irving as Philip of Spain 92 

First trial proof. 

82. Irving as Philip of Spain ...... 92 

Second trial proof. 

83. Irving as Philip of Spain ...... 92 

First state of the plate, undescribed in Wedmore's Catalogue. 

84. Irving as Philip of Spain ...... 92 

With dry point added, undescribed in Wedmore's Catalogue. 

85. Trouville — Blue and Silver ...... 94 

From an oil-painting in the possession of J. J. Cowan, Esq. 

86. Battersea Bridge ........ 96 

87. Whistler with the White Lock 98 

88. The Large Pool 100 

89. Putney Bridge 100 

90. A Nude Study 102 

From a pastel in the possession of Edmund Davis, Esq. 

91. San Biagio 104 

92. Bead Stringers 104 

93. Nocturne — Palaces . . . . . . . .106 

94. The Bridge 106 




, Esq. 

95. A Nude Study . . . . . . 

From a pastel in the possession of Edmund Davis, Esq. 

96. Upright Venice ....... 

97. Little Court ........ 

98. The Riva, Number Two .... 

99. Chelsea Shops ....... 

From a water-colour drawing in the possession of J. J. 
Cowan, Esq. 

100. The Balcony ..... 

101. Garden ...... 

102. Long Venice ..... 

103. The Angry Sea .... 

From an oil-painting in the possession of J. J. Cowan 

104. Furnace Nocturne .... 

105. The Smithy 

106. Nocturne — Salute .... 

107. A Study in Rose and Brown . 

From an oil-painting in the possession of Messrs. Laurie 
and Co. 

108. F. R. Leyland's Mother . 

109. Study ...... 

From a lithograph. 

110. The Toilet 

From a lithograph. 

111. An Orange Note — Sweet Shop 

From an oil-painting in the possession of VV. Flower, Esq. 

112. Study 

From a lithograph. 

113. Early Morntng .... 

First state, from a lithograph. 

114. Nocturne ...... 

From a lithograph. 

115. The Cure's Little Class 

From an oil-painting in the possession of J. J. Cowan, Esq 














116. Study 134 

From a lithograph. 

117. Portrait Studies . . . . . . . .136 

From a dry point by Mortimer Menpes. 

118. Portrait Study ........ 138 

From a dry point by Mortimer Menpes. 

119. The Little Nurse 140 

From an oil-painting in the possession of J. J. Cowan, Esq. 

120. Portrait Studies . . . . . . . .142 

From a dry point by Mortimer Menpes. 

121. Portrait Studies . . . . . . . 144 

From a dry point by Mortimer Menpes. 

122. Portrait Studies . . . . . . . .146 

From a dry point by Mortimer Menpes. 

123. Whistler and Menpes . . . . . .148 

From photographs. 

124. A Nocturne 150 

From an oil-painting in the possession of J. J. Cowan, Esq. 

125. Whistler, Chase, and Menpes 152 

From a photograph. Whistler with the curly- and Chase 
with the straight-brimmed hat. 

The whole of the reproductions oftlie etchings and dry points are from 
proofs in the possession of Mr. Mortimer Menpes. 



From a pen-and-ink drawing in the possession of 
Mortimer Menpes. The feather end of the quill pen 
was used as a brush for the washes. 



The cry of Whistler's life was, " Save me from my 
friends! " If only he could hear them now, the cry, I 
feel sure, would be still more terrible. The under- 
studies fall sadly short. His friends are foolishly, 
though no doubt all unwittingly, raising up a cloud 
behind which the real Whistler is obscured, and I feel 
that it is only fair to his memory to try and cleanse 
the atmosphere that is gathering round about him. 
For example, how ridiculous are the letters which one 
reads nowadays in the papers concerning Whistler's 
aversion from the Royal Academy? They say that 
Whistler would not care to have his work exhibited 
either at the National Gallery or at the Royal Academy ; 
they almost go the length of saying that he would 
object to his pictures even being bought in England. 
That is absolutely ridiculous. It is false. I knew 
Whistler, not toward the end of his life, but at his 
best and strongest period, when he was doing his 
finest work. I refer to the time of the "Sarasate," 
the "Mother," and the "Carlyle." I know for a fact 
that not only would Whistler have allowed it, but also 
that he would have looked upon it as the greatest 
privilege, to have been made an Associate of the Royal 


Academy. Whistler at this time confided in me : we 
were sufficiently intimate for him to tell me all his 
aspirations. Dozens of times I went with him to the 
National Gallery, a privilege few men have had, to 
study the work of Canaletto ; and many a time I 
heard him say what a fitting background such pic- 
tures would make for "the Master's" work. Nothing, 
I am sure, would have pleased him more than to have 
had his pictures exhibited collectedly either at the 
National Gallery or at the Royal Academy. 

Just as nothing harms the dead Whistler so much 
as this exaggeration, nothing harmed the living 
Whistler so much as the foolish adulation of the 
sycophants by whom he was surrounded. His friends 
often upset him in his work by gush. A man who 
was a friend would turn up, or generally speaking it 
would be a woman, and he or she would begin to 
talk about a picture Whistler had only just begun, 
and say, "Oh, that is superb! That is amazing! 
Jimmy, don't touch that picture again." And Whis- 
tler would answer, " Well, I guess it is rather good," 
and leave it without another stroke. A picture has 
often been thus arrested by a so-called friend with a 
frivolous, ignorant remark of this kind. For Whistler 
was very sympathetic by nature, and was influenced 
to a great extent by what people said. 

Then, again, it is absurd to say that Whistler 
never erred. All men, however great, have made 


From a pen-and-ink drawing in the possession of 
C. W. Dowdeswell, Esq. The pen-holder and the 
ringer were freely used as a brush in the execution 
of the drawing. 


mistakes, and Whistler was ever the first to admit 
his failings. No man knew his limitations better 
than he, and that, I often think, was one great 
reason why he succeeded so well. 

I have heard people say that Whistler never 
copied anyone, that he was absolutely original in 
everything he did. I have heard men talk of Mr. 
Chase, the well-known portrait-painter, and say, 
" Isn't it absurd of Chase to try and copy the Mas- 
ter's straight-brimmed hat?" Now, I happen to 
know that Chase never copied Whistler's hat ; and, to 
prove my statement, reproduce in this book a photo- 
graph of Whistler, Chase, and myself. There it will 
be seen that Whistler is wearing the curly hat, and 
Chase the straight-brimmed hat. When Whistler first 
caught sight of Chase, he said, "Ha, ha! what have 
we here? This is good! I like the lines of this 
hat! " And in less than a week Whistler blossomed 
out in the straight-brimmed hat of Chase. 

The people who talk so glibly of Whistler never 
having copied anyone do not understand how great 
an artist he was. When the Master saw a good thing 
he accepted it. For example, the title of his book, 
"The Gentle Art of Making Enemies," was not Whis- 
tler's idea. Someone else designed it, and he adopted 
it immediately as a good thing. Now, this same 
book, pungent and epigrammatic as it is, is not suf- 
ficient in itself to justify a too enthusiastic friend's 


claim that, great artist though Whistler was, he was 
still a greater poet. Surely such over-praise simply 
brings ridicule on the Master. In my opinion Whis- 
tler's book should be swept away. While the Master 
himself lived it was all very well ; we who surrounded 
him, friends and enemies alike, understood Whistler's 
little foibles, and never should have dreamed of taking 
his letters in "The Gentle Art" seriously. Now that 
Whistler is dead, men who did not know him, reading 
the book, will say, "Bad, very bad! This man must 
have been vicious, spiteful, and of no refined tastes 
whatever." They read, naturally enough, into his 
gentle ironies, venom, spite, and bourgeois ill-temper. 
That is unfair. Whistler was in many respects a lov- 
able, delightful man ; and it is unfortunate that such 
a book, a living libel on its author, should go down to 
posterity. The feverish friends of Whistler make 
confusion worse confounded by taking everything he 
said in "The Gentle Art" literally. In so doing they 
are slighting Whistler's memory. By exaggeration 
they are transforming the delicate rapier of the 
Master into a clumsy common bludgeon. Well in- 
deed might Whistler say, "Save me from my friends! " 
I feel that it is my duty to speak plainly, for I myself 
am one of the " scalped ones," and not the least 
vigorously handled. 

Whistler never attempted to deceive me with re- 
gard to the people he attacked. Most of them, he 


Signed by "J. M. Whistler" and "Seymour Haden, 1 ' 
done in collaboration. 

\ ■ 


■ M^m^^^^ 


was quite aware, had done no real wrong, and the 
Master himself was not bitter against them. Simply 
he looked upon these different men as so much mate- 
rial to be used, and, friends or foes, he fought against 
them all. The writing of these letters was a great 
joy to him. He loved nothing better, and never 
missed an opportunity of penning one of his famous 
epistles. Often I was with Whistler at the moment 
when he thought of a brilliant phrase. We might 
be in a hansom cab or at a Soho restaurant, and he 
would say, after telling the then latest quips, " Now, 
who shall I tack it on to, Menpes?" If an oppor- 
tunity did not occur, he very soon made one by writ- 
ing a letter which called for answer. All his friends 
at that period delighted in this curious twist in his 
character. None of us for a moment thought of tak- 
ing him seriously. He attacked me over and over 
again by letter ; but I did not resent it. I had never 
harmed Whistler, ■ — in fact, I always looked upon it 
as a privilege to help him in any way I could ; — yet 
he wrote to me letters full of stinging wit and sar- 
casm, letters in which he called me the " Kangaroo of 
his country, born with a pocket and putting every- 
thing into it." But Whistler forgave me afterwards. 
The moment he met me again he began to roar with 
laughter, and treated the whole affair as a huge joke. 
I, too, treated it as a joke. I knew that " the Kan- 
garoo " was too good a simile to be missed by Whis- 


tier, and I appreciated his wit. He fired off his sallies 
on me ; and that was all right, I understood. Now 
his friends, in taking such statements seriously, are 
perpetuating real harm, such as Whistler himself 
never for a moment intended. He called me "the 
robber," and declared that I had stolen his paint, 
suggested list slippers and a dark lantern, and was 
altogether very amusing, because I happened to dis- 
temper a room lemon yellow. 

I had the privilege of being with Whistler for 
some years, and I trust that I learned many things 
from him : certainly, if I did not, the omission is 
deplorable. Whistler did not mean to hurt me — 
he was really very fond of me. For his friends to 
take this literally, and imagine that Whistler was the 
originator of distemper and the colour of lemon yel- 
low, and that I was in truth a robber, is absurd : it is 
casting ridicule on the Master. When a friend not 
long ago interceded in my behalf with Whistler, he with 
admirable wit and adroitness wrote back, " Admiral, 
beware of those who hoist the black flag : you would 
not let them board your ship, surely." I might have 
been offended at that, had I been without sense of 
humour ; but no — such extraordinary aspersions and 
wit were so great a joy that all sense of bitterness was 

Whistler once said to me, " You can only judge of 
a true friend by his capacity for allowing you to 



cleanse his home. The first and foremost duty of a 
friend is to cleanse his visiting list for me." He then 
gave me an accurate description of what such a friend 
should be. (He described, in fact, a worm.) I have 
heard of men who actually did cleanse their visiting 
lists for Whistler, — much, I have no doubt, to the 
Master's own surprise and disgust. 

This " Gentle Art of Making Enemies," perpetu- 
ated and treated seriously as it is, will, in the near 
future, do a great deal of harm, not only to Whistler, 
but also to other people. Great men such as Swin- 
burne, Ruskin, and Rossetti will be placed in a wrong 
light. Whistler was a great master, and his work will 
live ; and, to a certain extent, so also will these little 
fights of his recorded in " The Gentle Art." Although 
when Whistler himself was alive, they were looked 
upon as amusing and as good reading, now that he is 
dead, and we have no longer his humorous individu- 
ality as explanation, a wrong interpretation will be put 
upon them. Whistler seized hold of petty eccentri- 
cities in these men and exaggerated them into char- 
acteristics ; in course of time his quips will be taken 
literally. If Boswell had spent his time exaggerating 
Doctor Johnson, we should never have had the mag- 
nificent picture of him that we have in the wonderful 
biography. It was because he seized upon the great 
qualities of the man that we have so true a concep- 
tion of Johnson's character. Anyone reading in "The 


Gentle Art" Whistler's attack on Swinburne would 
conceive a wrong idea of what really occurred. Swin- 
burne would appear as a bitter enemy ; whereas he was 
at that time Whistler's greatest friend. Swinburne 
did not want to write that criticism of Whistler's " Ten 
O'Clock" in the Fortnightly Review; but Whistler 
insisted, and out of kindness for Jimmy he wrote it. 
Whistler had often said to me, "The Bard must 
write a dignified criticism of my 'Ten O'Clock.'" 
He approached Watts-Dunton on the matter over and 
over again. In the end Swinburne acquiesced — 
and attacked him. They never met afterwards ; but 
Whistler was fond of Swinburne to the end. 



From a pastel in the possession of Louis Huth, Esq. 

"jj —-or-. 


Those days which I spent with Whistler were 
fascinating beyond words, and at the same time a 
superb education for me. I will endeavour to give 
a description of a typical day with the Master. 

Invariably every morning by the first post I 
received a letter, and the letter nearly always said, 
" Come at once — important." I have dozens of such 
epistles in my possession now. I would call at his 
house at about nine o'clock, and we would walk 
round together to his studio. There the first and 
foremost duty to be attended to was Whistler's cor- 
respondence. No man had more letters calculated 
to arouse and excite than Whistler. The reading of 
them always involved quite an hour's conversation, 
during which time elaborate plans for the scalping 
of such-and-such a man were laid out. Then Whistler 
would get his little pochade box, and together we 
would drift out into the open, — on to the Embank- 
ment, or down a side street in Chelsea, — and he 
would make a little sketch, sometimes in water, 
sometimes in oil colour. It might be a fish shop 
with eels for sale at so much a plate, and a few 
soiled children in the foreground ; or perhaps a 


sweet-stuff shop, and the children standing with 
their faces glued to the pane. There we would stay 
and paint until luncheon time, sitting on rush- 
bottomed chairs borrowed from the nearest shop. 
Wherever Whistler went he caused interest and ex- 
citement : men, women, and children flocked about 
him — especially children, Chelsea children, shoals of" 
them. If one of them appealed to Whistler from 
the decorative standpoint, he would say, " Not bad, 
Menpes, eh?" This was, perhaps, a very soiled and 
grubby little person indeed. But Whistler would 
take her kindly by the hand and ask her where she 
lived ; and the three of us would trot along to ask 
the mother if she might sit, the child, with its 
upturned flowerlike though dirty face, gazing with 
perfect confidence at Whistler. And the Master 
would talk to the gutter-snipe in a charmingly inti- 
mate way about his work and aspirations. " Now 
we are going to do great things together," he would 
say, and the little dirty-faced child, blinking up at 
him, seemed almost to understand. For Whistler 
never failed with children : no one understood them 
quite like the Master, and no one depicted child-life 
better than he. Whistler's children were never little 
old ladies : they were real children, with all the 
grace and ingenuousness of childhood apparent in 
every line. Then would come the tussle with the 
mother, who, naturally enough, wanted to clean up 



her child, and with the Master, who insisted that she 
should come just as she was, dirt and all. Eventu- 
ally we would go back to the studio, where, per- 
haps, the little one would help to set the table for 
luncheon, settling down at once to full responsibility. 
Whistler was in some ways very helpless ; but he 
always cooked our luncheon. A great deal of time 
would be spent over this work, for the Master was 
very exact and dainty in everything he undertook. 
There was the breaking of the eggs into the pan and 
the careful manipulation of an omelette. I would 
be despatched for a bottle of white wine, and Whistler 
himself would drink milk with biscuits soaked in it 
— he always lived on very slender fare. Then the 
child would sit, and Whistler would paint, — some- 
times a life-sized oil-colour, sometimes a little pas- 
tel. But from the moment his brush touched the 
canvas the child as a child was forgotten : she 
might droop and faint before Whistler would come 
down to earth again and understand that this was 
a living mortal. Sometimes after a long afternoon 
the girl began to bellow, — something was hurting 
her, or she was stiff with standing so long, — and 
Whistler, looking up with a start, would say, " Pshaw! 
What's it all about? Can't you give it something, 
Menpes? Can't you buy it something?" The child 
eventually left the studio laden with toys, and per- 
fectly happy once more. 


How well I remember that studio in Walham 
Green ! It was an enormous room filled with great 
canvases, scores of them, some begun and others 
ready to paint on with ivory black and white. Care- 
fully placed on easels round the room were a few 
finished pictures, and, in a position where the light 
fell upon it, a large table which Whistler used as a 
palette. This table was always kept scrupulously 
clean. Everything about Whistler was dainty. He 
himself at work in his studio was always dressed in 
such a way that at any moment he was ready to 
receive visitors. There was no smock frock, no 
velvet coat, no tucking up of the sleeve : he was 
dressed in his studio as he would be in a drawing- 

The child sitter having left, Whistler and I would 
go round to Bond Street, to the tailor. Curiously 
enough, whenever one came in contact with Whistler 
one entirely forgot one's own affairs, and became 
completely occupied with his. The fit of the Master's 
coat was far more important to me at that time than 
my own artistic work. At the tailor's, Whistler 
would give an elaborate description of how a certain 
coat was to be made, and the discussion generally 
ended in a violent attack on the tailor. Whistler 
would explain how the garment was to be made, and 
the tailor would carry out his directions literally ; 
but no sooner had the man accomplished the work 


*m*m ' i ~ i i .i i ■ .. irw M... n , A , * 


than Whistler would say: "This is all wrong ! How 
clare you say that it is what I told you to do? I am 
a painter. It is not my business to make coats. 
That is your province. Therefore, you should have 
led me to do what you knew to be right." Eventu- 
ally the mistake would be remedied, and Whistler, 
putting on the coat once more, walked up and down 
before the glass, noticing carefully whether the tails 
fell in graceful lines toward his heels. Sometimes 
for a quarter of an hour he would stride thus before 
the mirror, — hand on hip, his cane balanced between 
his fingers, and his hat cocked well over one eye. 
In the end, if he happened to be well pleased, he 
would tap the tailor with his cane, — that showed 
great appreciation, — and the poor man was almost 
overwhelmed. Then, in a half-jocular way, Whistler 
would say, " You know, you must not let the Master 
appear badly clothed : it is your duty to see that I 
am well dressed." All who entered that tailor's shop 
while the fitting was in progress, no matter how 
pressing their business, became highly interested in 
Whistler and his coat. An old soldier came in 
puffing and blowing, impatient at being kept waiting. 
Whistler, delighted to get an audience, buttonholed 
the veteran immediately, and said: "Now, just look 
at this coat ! Look at the back of it ! What are we 
to do ? " And by and by the warrior became thor- 
oughly interested in the fit of the Master's coat, quite 


forgetting his own affairs. When everything had 
been arranged to his satisfaction, and both tailor and 
customers were reduced to a condition of collapse, 
Whistler gathered up his skirts and stepped out into 
Bond Street. 

We would go the round of the different galleries. 
Whistler never talked much to the dealers. Some- 
times he would enter a gallery, and say, " Ha, ha ! 
amazing ! " and then sail out. Afterwards he would 
turn to me, and say, "You know, that does a lot of 
good : it's like the important bank manager who 
visits each department every morning and coughs 
loudly to show his authority." 

Sometimes we visited a dealer who owed him 
money, and Whistler would receive a cheque. Once 
the cheque was not handed to him in what he thought 
a sufficiently dignified manner, and he said to the 
dealer: "This is careless of you. You push this 
cheque toward me, and you do not realise what a 
privilege it is to be able to hand it to the Master. 
You should offer it on a rich old English salver and 
in a kingly way." Once a dealer borrowed a gor- 
geously embossed silver salver for the occasion, and 
when the Master arrived for his cheque — he was 
very punctual — presented it on the salver with a 
carefully worded and elegant little speech that he had 
taken some pains to rehearse. The Master was 
pleased. "This," said he, "is as it should be." 



mm j 

First state. 


Often in Bond Street we encountered a critic, and 
it was amusing sometimes to Avatch the unfortunate 
man trying to wriggle out of Whistler's reach. Never 
did mortal man create more excitement during a 
simple afternoon's stroll than Whistler. Sometimes 
we would drift from Bond Street to Chelsea, and, sud- 
denly finding a subject, he would etch a little plate. 
(I always carried a packet of copperplates carefully 
grounded and ready for Whistler's use.) Then, perhaps 
in the middle of our work, he would rush off to a gar- 
den party. It often annoyed me that Whistler should 
be wasting his time with foolish, ignorant people, who 
neither understood nor appreciated his worth. 

In the evening Ave dined at the Arts Club, or at a 
friend's house, — for at that time Whistler's friends 
were my friends, and he always liked to have me 
with him. Sometimes, but not often, Ave Avent to the 
theatre. Whistler Avas terribly disturbing : he never 
would listen to serious plays in a sober spirit. Trag- 
edy convulsed him. It was false and Avrong, he said, 
and the actors made obvious mistakes : to him such 
plays were ludicrous from start to finish. I shall never 
forget going one night with Whistler and Godwin the 
artist to see Wilson Barrett as Claudian. Whistler 
screamed and laughed and rocked himself to and fro in 
an agony of merriment, GodAvin Avas a very brilliant 
man, and a serious sort of felloAv; but he couldn't 
look at the stage, the actors, or anything else, for 


watching Whistler. I thought he would have had a 
fit! Shakspearian plays appealed to Whistler as 
being exquisitely funny. The poses of the actors, he 
said, were antagonistic to the period, and he never 
could understand why the men wore gold boots. 
Still, no one could be more enthusiastic and stimu- 
lating as an audience than Whistler when he chose. 
For example, Nellie Farren he thought splendid. 
" Amazing ! marvellous ! " he would cry every time the 
curtain fell. Comic songs at the music halls and 
pantomimes amused him just as if he were a child. 

Always, after a theatre, we went to the Hogarth 
Club, where Whistler gathered all the men about him 
by the fascination of his talk. Speaking simply in 
a quiet way to myself, and without once looking 
round, Whistler would draw every man in that club to 
his side, — smart young men about town, old fogies, 
retired soldiers who had been dozing in arm-chairs. 
The Master himself appeared unconscious : I alone 
knew that he had wilfully attracted them. He hyp- 
notised those men, every one of them ; and it was 
interesting to watch that slight, fragile little figure 
sipping his glass of liqueur and holding the atten- 
tion of that room full of men all drinking unlimited 
brandies and sodas. Every one of them, I warrant, 
went away at the end of the evening with a desire for 
work : Whistler invariably inspired people to work. 

He and I would go home together. We always 

From a pastel in the possession of Louis Huth, Esq. 


walked, however late the hour, for the Master looked 
upon walking as a healthy exercise. It was strange 
to see him, in his dainty shoes, holding up his 
skirts as he picked his way through the mud of Picca- 
dilly, always laughing always gay, never weary. We 
invariably went home at night by the way of the Em- 
bankment, to look at some nocturne, perhaps a fish 
shop, which Whistler was trying to commit to mem- 
ory. He would talk aloud as he created the idea 
for one of his marvellous pictures. He would say: 
" Look at that golden interior with the two spots of 
light, and that old woman with the cherpiered shawl. 
See the warm purple tone outside going away up to 
the green of the sky, and the shadows from the win- 
dows thrown on the ground. What an exquisite lace- 
work they form ! " He would say all this aloud, and 
I would walk back with him to his studio, and talk 
with him, sometimes, until two o'clock in the morning. 
Then he would say, as I was leaving: "Now, Menpes, 
remember, I want you to be here early in the morn- 
ing. As for me, I am going to make my mind a blank 
until I paint that fish shop ; and you must be here 

And I always was there early, — so early that very 
often I breakfasted with Whistler, — but, at whatever 
hour I arrived, I always found him up, and dressed, 
sparkling and bright as ever. 











The Whistler Followers were privileged people ; 
but among them there were only two genuine pupils. 
These were AValter Sickert and myself. The followers 
never met under the Master's eye; but they formed 
themselves into a society whose main object was to 
tight his battles. Individually we meant to fight for 
ourselves, too ; but that was a bold idea, and we never 
let the Master know it. We were a little clique of 
the art world, attracted together in the first instance 
by artistic sympathies. At the most we never num- 
bered a dozen. We were painters of the purely 
modern school, — impressionists, I suppose we might 
have been called, — all young, all ardent, all poor. 
We had our ways to make in the world ; we had 
ambition ; we had intentions. Just then we had not 
much else. Severally and collectively we intended 
to be great. Of course, we intended to be rich ; 
but that seemed an incidental consideration. We 
looked upon money merely as an ultimate result. 
Our immediate object was the work. 

As soon as we found that we were in harmony 
as to our aims, we felt it desirable that we should 
meet frequently to assist one another in feeling our 



way to a revelation. We resolved, therefore, to form 
ourselves into a club, and to hire a room where we 
might meet of an evening for the discussion of art, 
I remember well when the idea was first thought of. 
Gathered in my house in Fulham, Ave made red dots 
on the map of London to localise our homes. This 
was for the purpose of deciding on a central spot for 
the studio. Eventually we decided on Baker Street, 
and rented a little room there at six shillings a week. 
We had a difficulty at first in collecting the shillings ; 
but it was divided among seven of us, and when one 
didn't pay up the others did. 

It was the hiring of the room that gave us an 
opportunity for putting into practice ideas on the 
subject of house decoration, which we felt to be of 
the utmost importance, — in fact, a principal part of 
the mission. We were convinced that the prevailing- 
system of house decoration was against the laws of 
art, and we were determined that our school should 
feel its way to a scheme that would revolutionise 
the system. -Be broad," was one of our favourite 
axioms ; "Be simple," was another. We had a great 
many pet phrases : indeed, after a time we developed 
quite an art language of our own. " Nature never 
makes a mistake in matching her tones," we said; 
and we settled that we would go and match tones 
from nature for the decorative plan of our club 






I I 

■ / 


For personal as well as for artistic reasons, we 
wished to demonstrate that the highest decorative 
art is not necessarily expensive, and decided that 
our plan should be carried out in distemper. Dis- 
temper is cheap. Distemper is "broad and simple." 
Distemper is the best medium for putting on a wall ; 
and in colour, we felt, lay our strength. Thereupon 
we proposed to take for our model the broad, simple, 
decorative scheme of the universe. Roughly speak- 
ing, our harmony should be that of sea and sky. 

The club room was small, and we had realised 
that to cut it up in patches of decoration would be 
inartistic. We decided to distemper the walls blue, 
the colour of the sky, and the ceiling green, the colour 
of the sea. We did not at that time discover that the 
scheme was upside-down ; but then we had a theory 
that nature was just as beautiful either way. What 
did it matter? Any woodwork about was painted 
the tone of the Dover cliffs, in sympathy with the 

There was no fireplace in the room — if there had 
been we couldn't have afforded coal : — so we bought 
a paraffin stove, and in winter evenings we used to 
warm ourselves at its flame. Poor little stove ! I 
always fancied there was something pathetic in the 
way we edged round it while we discussed art, and in 
the friendly surreptitious rivalry between boots and 
knees as to which should get nearest the flame. 


We wrote on special note-paper, of a peculiar tint, 
sacred to the school ; and, like the Master, had a 
special stamp. The design was, we thought, sym- 
bolic as well as decorative. It represented a steam- 
engine advancing, with a red light displayed, — a 
danger signal to the Philistines to warn them that 
reformers were on their track. 

We were very enthusiastic at that period, and 
that, of course, led us into absurdities. Still, no 
doubt, enthusiasm did us a world of good; after all, 
it is a law of progress to march through mistakes to 
achievement. It was the peculiarity of the school 
that they were always on the verge of some great 
discovery in the matter of method, or of pigment, or 
of manipulation, — touching, as it were, some hitherto 
unknown truth, which was to revolutionise all the old 
canons of art. If you met one of us round a street 
corner, he would be excited and mysterious. " Ah, 
my dear fellow," he would exclaim, " I have some- 
thing to tell you. I'm reducing nature to a system. 
I'm getting things to a state of absolute perfection. 
Just wait ! " 

We always waited ; but nothing seemed to happen. 
That is, a great deal came, but nothing in the least 
approaching perfection. In fact, what generally did 
come was failure. We were not disheartened. We 
never lost our enthusiasm. Balked in one direction, 
we would bravely start off in another. If we hadn't 

From a pastel in the possession of Louis Huth, Esq. 


been so earnest, there might have been something 
absurd in this blind chase after the ideal, — a chase 
through poor, mean places where no ideal could possi- 
bly be found. To me the pathos of our misguided 
energy, the even tragedy of our hopelessly clogged 
aspirations, lifted our school far beyond the realms of 
the ludicrous. 

At one time we were influenced by the work of 
another artist, Digars ; but, of course, this was kept 
from the Master. It was Walter Sickert who first saw 
Digars' s work. He brought enthusiastic descriptions 
of the ballet girls Digars was painting in Paris. We 
tried to combine the methods of Whistler and Digars, 
and the result was low-toned ballet girls. 

There was another period when we used to travel 
all round London painting nature from the top of 
hansom cabs. It was lucky for us that Whistler never 
saw us. The ignominy of being sent home to bed 
would have been too terrible. 

Once an interesting figure appeared on our horizon, 
— a French painter. He was Whistler's find, and was 
held up to us Followers as an example. "At last," 
Whistler said, " I have found a follower worthy of the 
Master." (I noticed with secret joy that he did not 
call him pupil.) This man went bareheaded always 
when in the presence of Whistler : whether out of 
doors or in, no one could persuade him to wear a hat. 

He was a great example, for we were becoming a 


little careless — we sometimes forgot ourselves, and 
wore hats. The Frenchman was charming, and a 
brilliant mathematician. He it was who designed a 
series of mathematical instruments for matching the 
tones of nature. Also, he worked out a scheme for 
mixing perfectly pure pigment. It was by means of 
grinding crystals into a powder, which, he declared, 
used as a pigment, compared with the ordinary colours 
would appear just as brilliant as a patch of snow on a 
muddy road. 

At one time the Followers became prismatic. This 
gave us a good deal of trouble. We began to paint in 
spots and clots ; we painted also in stripes and bands. 
Form with us meant being perfect from the decorative 
point of view. That was all that mattered. Nature, 
we said, is for the painter a decorative patch ; a por- 
trait, a blot of colour, merely an object in relation to a 
background. We held it a fundamental error to intro- 
duce into pictorial art elements belonging strictly (we 
supposed) to the literary art, " Nature," we said, " for 
the painter should be divested of all human and spirit- 
ual attributes ; sentiment, philosophy, poetry, romance 
— these things belong to the literary art, and are not 
in the painter's palette." For him, nature should be 
tilted forward and without distance — a Japanese 
screen, a broad mass of tones — a piece of technique. 
The face in a portrait should not be more important 
than the background. The moment you realised that 


I- • , __.. L " .. 


With boat in charcoal, first state. 


it was a face, the literary art came in ; and you had 
better give it a cup of tea, or pull its nose. 

In the end we swept away all faces. Features, we 
felt, were unnecessary. A broad sweep of flesh tone 
sufficed for a portrait. We saw no difference between 
a face and a peach or a peach and a coal-scuttle. 

Then we began to realise that nature was very fair, 
and that if you got into a coal-cellar and looked through 
the chink of a door you saw her much more truly than 
in any other way. For some time we painted nature 
only through the chinks of doors. Some of us became 
very exact. Others talked of the folly of painting 
pictures only at one hour of the day, — midday. There- 
fore, we began to paint pictures at all times, — morning, 
noon, and night. We were continually asking one 
another to guess at what hour such-and-such a picture 
was painted. A Follower would suggest eleven-thirty. 
"Right you are — almost," the proud possessor would 
answer. Not eleven-thirty, but eleven-fifteen — 
because at that time the shadows were stealing round 
the hay-stack and forming that particular pattern. 
The school was becoming scientific. To be able to tell 
the time of day by a picture was astounding ! 

I must excuse myself for dwelling on the subject of 
the Followers. Our lives at that time were wrapped 
up in the one great and overpowering individuality of 
Whistler. It was he who stimulated us to do these 
extraordinary things. Our principles were his princi- 


pies exaggerated. The Master was too great to be 
approached on the subject of art directly. We had 
never mentioned to him the school or its aims. We 
feared that he would perhaps regard it as insignificant, 
and us, its members, as unworthy exponents of aims 
so serious. 

We seldom asked Whistler questions about his 
work, such as the way he mixed his pigment. If we 
had, he would have been sure to say, " Pshaw ! you 
must be occupied with the Master, not with your- 
selves. There is plenty to be done." If there was 
not, Whistler would ahvays make a task for you, — 
a picture to be taken in to the Dowdeswell's, or a 
copperplate to have a ground put on it. 

Only once I remember him really teaching us any- 
thing. He told it to us two pupils ; and Sickert, I 
remember, took down every word on his cuff. He de- 
scribed how in Venice once he was drawing a bridge, 
and suddenly, as though in a revelation, the secret 
of drawing came to him. He felt that he wanted to 
keep it to himself, lest someone should use it, — it 
was so sure, so marvellous. This is roughly how he 
described it: "I began first of all by seizing upon 
the chief point of interest. Perhaps it might have 
been the extreme distance, — the little palaces and 
the shipping beneath the bridge. If so, I would 
begin drawing that distance in elaborately, and then 
would expand from it until I came to the bridge, 

Undescribed in Wedmore's Catalogue. 



which I would draw in one broad sweep. If by 
chance I did not see the whole of the bridge, I would 
not put it in. In this Avay the picture must neces- 
sarily be a perfect thing from start to finish. Even 
if one were to be arrested in the middle of it, it would 
still be a fine and complete picture." 

That is the only instance that I can remember of 
Whistler sitting down and actually explaining any- 
thing to the pupils; but, of course, in a thousand 
subtle ways we benefited by his presence. In fact, 
as artists we owed our existence entirely to the 
Master. We were allowed the intimacy of his studio ; 
we watched him paint day after day ; we studied his 
methods, witnessed his failures and successes. He 
never placed us down as pupils and told us to paint 
such-and-such an object, nor did he ever see our work 
when it was finished; but we felt his influence, never- 
theless, and strongly. We were true Followers ; and 
in the first stage of our enthusiasm we had such a 
reverence for the Master that, highly as we esteemed 
Velasquez and Eembrandt, we still looked upon these 
persons as mere drivellers in art compared with him. 
Strange, eager amateurs we would recognise some- 
times, but only because they painted on the Whistler 
lines. One lady, I remember, used to paint flowers. 
We thought her work very fine. She had no academic 
training ; but we placed her high because she painted 
on grey panels and in sympathy with Whistler. He, 


of course, we placed far above Raphael. In fact, we 
couldn't stand Raphael, because Whistler had said 
that he was the smart young man of his period. 

One rainy day Whistler was sitting in my dining 
room poring over a large volume of Raphael's car- 
toons. After spending two hours with them, he came 
to the conclusion that Raphael did not count. But 
he was pleased, he said, to have had the opportunity 
of placing the smart young man of his day. Rem- 
brandt we recognised to a certain extent, because 
Whistler had been heard to say that he had had his 
good days. Also, however, he had remarked that 
Rembrandt revelled in gummy pigment and treacly 
tones : so Rembrandt, in our opinion, did not occupy 
much of a position. Canaletto and Velasquez we 
placed high, very high, but not, of course, on the 
same plane with Whistler. The only master with 
whom Ave could compare our own was Hokusai, the 
Japanese painter. 

At that time we copied Whistler in every detail. 
If he painted from a table instead of using a palette, 
from that moment onward we discarded the use of 
palettes. Whistler talked of breadth and simplicity, 
and broader and emptier sketches than the Followers 
produced you could not possibly imagine. At that 
period I was painting little children on the sands — 
some clad only in sunbonnets, and others without the 
bonnets. I began to paint so broadly and so simply 

Rare state with white boat. 


that the flesh tone of the child and the sand were so 
much alike that the picture, when it was finished, 
resembled a clean sheet of paper. 

Then, in company with the other Followers, I 
acquired the "grey-panel" craze. Personally, I have 
never seen nature in grey tones, but often in vivid, 
almost prismatic, colours; and the feeble little pic- 
tures I produced, stained grey panels in Whistlerian 
frames, were almost pathetic in their futility. 

We Followers saw things from Whistler's stand- 
point. If we etched a plate, we had to etch it almost 
exactly on Whistlerian lines. If Whistler kept his 
plates fair, ours were so fair that they could scarcely 
be seen. If Whistler adopted economy of means, 
using the fewest possible lines, we became so nervous 
that we could scarcely touch the plate lest we should 

Of course, there were moments when we rebelled 
from the Master's influence and tried to be bold. 
" The whole principle of art," Ave said, " is that you 
must be bold : you must be careless, indifferent, reck- 
less." There was no such thing as technique. It did 
not matter what you used — brush, charcoal, drypoint, 
— you must be bold. W T e tore ourselves away from 
breadth and simplicity, staining panels and economis- 
ing means, and we tried to be bold. 

It was then that the athletic period began, the period 
of overeating. " Good work," we said, " is impossible 


without good food" ; and thenceforward we spent our 
time at restaurants. One of the Followers etched a 
plate at luncheon with a fork. This did occur to me, 
even in my feverish condition, as being a trifle extrav- 
agant. Even the Master never followed more than 
one point, — to use four seemed rather too bold ; — but 
the Follower was perfectly in earnest as to his "fork 
method," and etched a plate regularly every night at 
dinner. At my house he etched a plate of a cele- 
brated lady artist. In the small hours of the morn- 
ing I took it upstairs and printed a proof. I placed 
the proof in a frame, so that Ave might the better 
judge of its merit. It was framed in the usual way, 
and, as I remembered afterwards, it had been etched 
upright ; but one could not be too particular, and the 
Follower never even noticed the mistake. He looked 
at his work in a satisfied, admiring way, and said, 
"Amazing!" We all echoed him — feebly, I must 
admit. Then he turned to us, and said : " Friends, 
always remember this golden rule — in art nothing 
matters so long as you are bold. These swift lines of 
mine, put on with a fork, have great boldness and 
assurance. What does it matter whether it is a por- 
trait of the lady artist or not?" To us it looked 
remarkably like a rainy day. 

This may indicate the condition of Whistler's Fol- 
lowers ; and, mind you, it is absolutely true — there 
is no exaggeration. 





At that early period one serious cause of disquiet 
to the most earnest among us was that in the ordinary 
course of nature we might not live long enough to 
carry out the great work of reform. We used often 
seriously to consider means of arriving at a hale old 
age. One of us used regularly to oil himself. He 
said the ancients did it. Anyhow, he fancied that 
the practice would enable him to live longer. 

I remember, too, our calling a meeting of the 
school in order to discuss the method of an old man 
whom some of us had met on the Embankment when 
we were studying a night effect. He was a very old 
man, friendly, with artistic tastes. He came up to us 
and talked about the lovely sky and the reflections in 
the water, and soon Ave were intimate. Instinctively 
feeling that he was in sympathy with the work, we 
confided to him our objects in life. He condoled with 
us on the dunderheadedness of a crass public whom it 
took a century to convert to a new theory. " But you 
are young yet," he said hopefully, "and you can 
manage it if you keep your health and energy." Then 
he told us that he had found out a method of length- 
ening his days to a hundred years. He would be glad 
to impart his secret, and asked us to go with him 
to his lodging close by and see what he called his 
hygienic implements. We went. It was an important 
matter that we should each live a hundred years. That 
was not nearly sufficient time in which to perform 


our mission ; but it was something. We looked upon 
the old man as a sort of heaven-sent wizard, and quite 
expected he would show us a crucible with the ingre- 
dients for the elixir. We were a little disappointed 
when he only showed us a row of brushes. They 
were brushes of various kinds, and in different stages 
of wear, from the soft brush for a baby's curls to the 
patent electric brush and the hard steel implement 
employed on the coats of collie and St. Bernard dogs. 
The old man then told us that his secret was fric- 
tion. At twenty-one he had been given over as incur- 
ably consumptive ; but by chance he had been led to 
discover the immense curative force of friction, and 
the best mode of employing it. He had begun with 
a baby's brush, rubbing himself from the head to the 
toes, and from the toes to the head, and had gone on 
gradually increasing the hardness of his brushes until 
he had arrived at steel ; and was now, at eighty, using 
the hardest brush that could be manufactured. He 
advised us to do the same, and assured us that we 
should live to be a hundred. 

We called a meeting in order that the school 
should begin to practise the method of prolonging 
life by friction. We felt that, though young and 
strong and not incurably consumptive, we ought to 
be possessed of brushes, and therefore laid in a stock, 
a series of three — soft, medium, and steel — for each 
member. We were none of us rich ; but we sub- 


From a pastel in the possession of Lady Meux. 


scribed in proportion to our means. For a week 
after this meeting there was not much work done, for 
we were all brushing ourselves. Somehow our enthu- 
siasm for the old man's hygienic method didn't last. 
After a fortnight our skins became so tender that we 
were obliged to give it up, and by tacit agreement the 
subject of brushes was dropped. 

The Master sometimes encouraged us. Once he 
encouraged me very much indeed. Before I had met 
Whistler, I had been etching a series of plates in Brit- 
tany, and I showed him some of the proofs. They 
were the first I ever did. He told me to send them to 
the Crystal Palace exhibition, where he himself was 
one of the judges. I sent several of them in a frame, 
and received a gold medal. This mark of his favour 
naturally elated me tremendously. The Master was 
with me ! He had given me a gold medal ! I felt 
that I had a future before me. He said, "You have 
the gold medal, Menpes, and Du Maurier the silver 
one ; but don't forget that there is plenty of time — 
don't occupy yourself too much with your own affairs ! " 

It was pathetic sometimes — the way the Followers 
would attempt to copy Whistler's mannerisms. We 
tried to use stinging phrases and to say cutting things. 
Our mild expressions, I am afraid, did not carry them 
off to advantage. 

Afterwards, when I had been thrust out of the 
school and looked back with clear, calm judgment at 


the Followers surrounding the Master, I coloured up 
and felt ashamed. I had been to Japan, had studied 
the methods of the Japanese, and had come back 
cleansed. I realised more than ever the greatness of 
the Master ; but I also realised the absurdity of try- 
ing to copy him in any way. One saw these mild- 
faced Followers, nearly all new recruits, gathering 
a little reflected glory, using the Master's phrases 
and trying to say other caustic things. Of course, 
directly I returned from Japan and the Master left me, 
the Followers also left, in a body — I was an outcast. 
I took up my brush, began my solitary artistic life, and 
tried to make a success. I have tried ever since. I 
have never come in touch with Whistler or the Fol- 
lowers from that day to this. Where they are now 
I do not know ; but I maintain that the period of 
enthusiasm did us all good. We worked well for the 
Master, and we loved him. I am quite convinced of 
one thing. No matter how seriously he may have 
attacked them, there is not one of those Followers but 
will remember the name of Whistler with gratitude, 
admiration, and affection to the end. 


Unique impression with the word "not" added. 

Early proof before monogram. 




Etched from the Tolhuis, early state. 


Whistler was essentially a purist, both as man and 
as worker. As a man he was sadly misunderstood by 
the masses. His nature was combative, and his long 
and brilliant career was a continuous tight. He re- 
vealed himself only to the few, and even that small 
inner circle, of whom I was one of the most devoted, 
saw the real man but seldom. On the rare occasions 
Whistler could be gentle, sweet, sympathetic, almost 
feminine, so lovable was he ; and he was, as I said, 
essentially a purist. No one has ever heard Whistler 
tell a story which was not absolutely unobjectionable. 
Such a thing was impossible, for he never had a vulgar 

Even in so small a detail as the dressing of his 
hair, Whistler was most particular. Many people 
thought him vain; but that idea is quite false. He 
treated his hair, as he could not but treat everything 
about him, purely from the artistic standpoint, as a 
picture, a bit of decoration. Many a time have I been 
with him to his hair-dresser in Kegent Street, and very 
serious and important was the dressing of the Master's 
head. Customers ceased to be interested in their own 
hair ; operators stopped their manipulations ; every - 

i> 33 


one turned to watch Whistler having his head dressed. 
He himself was supremely unconscious. The by- 
standers troubled him not at all. The hair was 
trimmed, but left rather long, Whistler meanwhile 
directing the cutting of every lock as he watched the 
barber in the glass. The poor fellow, only too con- 
scious of the delicacy of his task, shook and trembled 
as he manipulated his scissors. Well he might, for 
was not this common barber privileged, to be thus an 
instrument in the carrying out of a masterpiece, a 
picture by the Master? The clipping completed, 
Whistler waved the operators imperiously on one side, 
and we noticed for a while the back view of this dap- 
per little figure surveying himself in the glass, step- 
ping now backward, now forward. Suddenly, to the 
intense surprise of the bystanders, he put his head 
into a basin of water, and then, half drying his hair, 
shook it into matted wet curls. With a comb he care- 
fully picked out the white lock, a tuft of hair just 
above his forehead, wrapped it in a towel, and walked 
about the room for from five to ten minutes pinching 
it dry, with the rest of his hair hanging over his face. 
This stage of the process caused great amusement at 
the hair-dresser's. Still pinching the towel, Whistler 
would then beat the rest of his hair into ringlets (to 
comb them would not have given them the right qual- 
ity), until they fell into decorative Avaves all over his 
head. A loud scream would then rend the air! 



Whistler wanted a comb ! This procured, he would 
comb the white lock into a feathery plume, and with a 
few broad movements of his hand form the whole into 
a picture. Then he would look beamingly at himself 
in the glass, and say but two words, — "Menpes, 
amazing!" — and sail triumphantly out of the shop. 
Once, having stepped into a four-wheeler, he put his 
head out to give a direction to the driver. His hat 
just touched the window, and disarranged his hair. 
Whistler stopped the cab, got out, reentered the hair- 
dresser's, and the work began again. 

In his mode of dress also he was constant to his 
artistic conceptions. His was not an attempt at ec- 
centricity. Many a time have I been with Whistler 
to his tailor's, and watched him being measured and 
the garments tried on ; and, although his directions 
to the titter were very particular and extraordinary, 
it was always the artist who talked, and not the vain 
man of fashion. He wanted to procure certain lines 
in his frock coat, and he insisted upon having the 
skirt cut very long, while over the shoulders there 
were to be capes which must needs form graceful 
curves in sympathy with the long flowing lines of the 
skirt. The idea of wearing white duck trousers with 
a black coat was conceived, not in order to be unlike 
other people, but because they formed a harmony in 
black and white which he loved. His straight-brimmed 
hat, his cane, the way he held his cane, each and 


every detail was studied, but only as the means of 
forming a decorative whole. He copied other people's 
peculiarities of dress occasionally, — boots, collars, 
hats ; — but, once worn by him, thenceforward they 
were exclusively his. 

In appearance Whistler was slight, small-boned, 
and extremely dainty. He seemed always to have a 
sparkling air about him. His complexion was very 
bright and fresh ; his eyes were keen and brilliant ; 
and his hair, when I knew him, was, save for one 
snowy lock, of a glossy raven-black. His dress was 
quaint, and a little different from that of other men, 
and his whole appearance, even his deportment, was 
studied from the artistic standpoint. 

Small and slight in stature, and dainty in ap- 
pearance though he was, never was there a man more 
courageous than Whistler. Many a time I have seen 
him amid the most trying circumstances ; but never 
once have I known him to show the slightest fear. 
Never once has his courage failed him ; never once 
has he admitted himself to be in the wrong. Whistler 
was the sort of man who, had he been thrown out of a 
top window on to the pavement beneath, and it were 
possible for him to speak, would have said, on being 
picked up, "Good jump that — wasn't it?" I re- 
member on one occasion seeing him amongst a room- 
ful of men every one of whom was against him — 
great big burly men they were, and all furious with 


From the oil-painting in the possession of 
J. J. Cowan, Esq. 


Whistler for some reason or another. They had lashed 
themselves into a fever of rage against him, and were 
quite prepared to bring violent physical force to bear 
upon his person if necessary. The master was a 
nervous man by nature, sensitive and highly strung. 
I remember seeing the frail little figure enter the 
room, and walk through the crowd of antagonists, all 
glaring at him vindictively. To show his calmness 
and strength of mind, he went up to a gas-jet in the 
middle of the room, held out his cigarette steadily at 
arm's length, and lit it. He never missed an oppor- 
tunity of this kind to hide beneath a jaunty exterior 
nervousness and sensitiveness. He handled his little 
fights and chastisements in such a way that he always 
got the better of his adversary. 

He never did anything foolish, such as attacking 
a man physically stronger than himself in the open — 
that would be hopelessly inartistic. I remember once 
saying to him in one of his sympathetic moods, " Of 
course, you don't know what fear is? " — " Ah, yes ! I 
do," "Whistler answered. " I should hate, for example, 
to be standing opposite a man who was a better shot 
than I, far away out in the forest in the bleak, cold, 
early morning. Fancy I, the Master, standing out in 
the open as a target to be shot at ! Pshaw ! It 
would be foolish and inartistic. I never mind calling 
a man out ; but I always have the sense to know that 
he is not likely to come." 


When I heard a little later that the Master had 
challenged a man in Paris, I thought to myself, " If 
that man only knew ! " Whistler attacked his ad- 
versaries in a most subtle way. He chose the right 
time and place, and always brought the chastisement 
off at the proper moment. He picked great men off 
their feet when they were not looking, and thrust 
them through plate-glass windows in Piccadilly. 
Still, he was not actually brutal. He never treated 
his enemies in a coarse way. Any man who had 
offended him Whistler would rap sharply over the 
shoulders with his cane ; and then, by the time 
the sufferer had recovered, the Master would be in the 
next room explaining to everyone how he had just 
felled his enemy. Once he caught a man, with whom 
he was for the moment enraged, washing his face. 
Without a moment's hesitation Whistler dashed the 
unfortunate head straight into the basin of water, and 
while the foe was endeavouring to clear the soap from 
his eyes to see the cause of this sudden immersion 
Whistler was in the smoking room setting the men 
there in a roar with the account of his adventures. 
When I first met Whistler he was in the act of search- 
ing for a man who had dared to criticise his Venetian 
etchings. " If you want to see some fun, Menpes," 
he said, " come with me." Fortunately, the man had 
been warned, and was nowhere to be found. 

I kept Whistler's friendship for some years, until 


Dry-point figure without monogram. 

Etched figure touched with wash. 



Etched figure completed with monogram. 


I committed the unpardonable offence of going to 
Japan. Japan should have been saved for the Master. 
I must admit that I really did slip off like a naughty 
boy sneaking out of school. I felt that he would 
resent my leaving him. I remember quite well writ- 
ing a note to Whistler on my way to the station, and 
leaving it at a little tobacconist shop in the King's 
Eoad, not far from his home, which I begged the man 
there not to deliver until some hours afterward. All 
the way to Paddington, as I journeyed onward, I 
blamed myself bitterly for having left the Master. 
I felt that I was doing a wrong thing in leaving him 
at that his greatest period, when he needed all his 
friends about him. Still, I too had a career to make, 
and was determined to succeed. Whistler, when I 
left England, was much occupied with me. He wrote 
a series of letters — pin-pricks every one of them 
— which reached me in Japan, and even in their 
journey out they had lost none of their power to 
sting. I longed then to go back and fill my old 
position again by Whistler's side as trusted friend. 
I yearned for the old days when I lived in the 
intimacy of his studio and we worked together and 
almost thought together. Many a time, unable to 
bear up any longer, I was on the point of taking 
the next steamer home. I felt myself to be an out- 
cast, exiled and alone. One or the other, however, 
had to be sacrificed, — either Whistler's friendship 


or my own career, — and in the struggle friendship 
went to the wall. 

When I returned to London, I met Whistler at the 
Hogarth Club, surrounded by feeble followers. Sad 
little people they were, aping the Master to the 
verge of pathos — small editions of Whistler without 
backbone. When he saw me he laughed his marvel- 
lous laugh, and said, " Ha, ha! amazing! " All round 
the room one heard faint echoes, " Ha, ha! amazing! " 
"Well, sir," he said, "excuse yourself." I found it 
difficult, for I earnestly felt that from his standpoint 
there really was no excuse for my conduct. I could 
discover nothing with which I could plead extenuat- 
ing circumstances. At the same time, filled with 
remorse and shame though I was, I could not resist 
telling him that I had met, in Japan, another master. 
" What ! " screamed Whistler. " How dare you call 
this Japanese a master on your own responsibility? 
Give me your reasons. What do you mean by it?" 
Then and there, in the Hogarth Club before Whistler 
and his followers, I began to explain Kyosai's method 
of painting. So engrossed did I become in my topic 
that I talked on and on far into the night, forgetting 
all antagonism, forgetting everything, except that I 
was a student, and was describing to one master the 
methods of another. I explained that every touch 
Kyosai placed upon his stretched silk was perfectly 
balanced and well placed, and that therefore, if the 



picture were arrested at any moment during its 
career, it would form a perfect whole, every line bal- 
ancing the other. " That is my method," interrupted 
Whistler in a protesting, impatient voice. "No," I 
answered gently : " that is the method of Kyosai." 
I continued my narrative. I explained that, after 
having made his drawing, Kyosai proceeded to paint 
his picture. I described how that he began 
when painting a figure by mixing his different tones 
in little blue pots, such as flesh tone, drapery tone, 
tones for the hair, gold-ornament tone, and that there 
was no searching for tones as on the average palette. 
There was no accident : all was sure, a scientific cer- 
tainty from beginning to end. I told him that Kyosai 
displayed enormous facility and great knowledge. A 
black dress would be one beautiful broad tone of 
black, the flesh one clear tone of flesh, the shadows 
growing out of the mass forming a part of the whole. 
"That is my method." Whistler broke in volubly: 
" that is exactly my method. I don't paint my 
shadows in little blues, and greens, and yellows until 
they cease to be a part of the picture. I paint them 
exactly as they are in nature, as a part of the whole. 
This Ky6sai must be a wonderful man, for his meth- 
ods are my methods. Go on, Menpes : tell me more ! " 
I then told him that when a Japanese artist was 
drawing a bird he began with the point of interest, 
which, let us say, was the eye. The brilliant black 


eye of a crow fixed upon a piece of meat attracted his 
attention ; lie remembered it, and the first few strokes 
he portrayed upon his stretched silk would be the eye 
of the bird. The neck, the legs, the body — every- 
thing radiated and sprang from that bright eye, just 
as it would in the animal itself. Whistler was quiet 
after this last description — quite quiet, and very 
thoughtful. He forgot his anger against me for going 
to Japan, forgot everything, save his intense interest 
and desire to hear more of the Japanese painter who 
also was a master. The feeble followers he dismissed. 
Treating me as a friend and pupil once more, Whistler 
took me by the arm, and Ave walked home together to 
the " Vale." We sat up talking until the small hours 
of the morning ; or rather I talked, for once, and 
Whistler sat drinking in every word. I described 
Kyosai's methods in detail, even to the mixing of 
his pigment and the preparing of his silk panels, for 
Whistler in some ways was a faddist and revelled in 
detail. When he was bidding me good-by on the 
doorstep, Whistler's last words were, "These Japanese 
are marvellous people, and this man Kyosai must be 
a very great painter ; but, — do you know ? — his 
methods and mine are absolutely similar!" 

Whistler's real quarrel with me came a little while 
afterwards. A day or two before my exhibition of 
Japanese pictures opened, he appeared in the gallery, 
looking very cross and carrying in his hand an open 



copy of The Pall Mall Gazette. I happened to be talk- 
ing to a friend, and did not notice his entrance ; but 
I was told afterwards that his face wore a set, deter- 
mined expression which to those who knew him 
predicted one of his historical scenes. However, he 
refrained from chastising me. There was only his 
frail bamboo cane for weapon, and it did not seem 
quite the moment. Still, he had lashed himself into 
a fury ; for he literally foamed at the mouth, and there 
was a slight fleck of foam upon the black ribbon of 
his necktie. I remember feeling ashamed of myself 
and unworthy as I saw that tie. What right had I, 
I asked myself, to arrest this great man in his work, 
to check masterpieces, to cause him to occupy and 
worry himself for one moment with my small affairs, 
and pour his wrath upon me, no matter how unmerited 
it might be? The Master flew up to me, and began 
without waiting for explanations. ' ' You have inspired 
this article in The Pall Mall Gazette. It is written 
by Mr. Spielmann ; but it is inspired by you, for you 
alone could know that I use black as a universal har- 
moniser." I was aghast. At that time I was far too 
unsophisticated to inspire anyone or anything, and 
I was young enough to feel highly flattered at the 
idea of having inspired so clever a man as Mr. Spiel- 
mann. "Also," he continued, "you have stolen my 
ideas. The eccentric hanging of this gallery brings 
ridicule upon the Master. Now, what do you propose 


to do? Your only hope of salvation is to walk up 
and down Bond Street with Pupil of Whistler printed 
in large letters on a sandwich board at your back, 
so that the world may know that it is I, Whistler, 
who have created you. You will also write to The 
Pall Mall Gazette, and tell them that you have stolen 
my ideas; also you will call yourself a robber." By 
this time feeling quite flattened out and annihilated, 
I said that I had no habits of letter-writing, but that I 
would insert a footnote in my catalogue and acknow- 
ledge the generous help of the Master in my artistic 
life. Whistler instantly turned upon me, more en- 
raged than ever. "Sir," he said, "your conduct 
savours of the police court," and marched out of the 

The last stab of all that I received from his rapier 
was after I had distempered my house in Fulham, 
and it became talked about in the newspapers as 
"The Home of Taste"; it was in connection with this 
house that he had me interviewed for a Philadelphian 
newspaper. The interview was extraordinarily fan- 
tastic and purely imaginary, and Whistler ordered 
three thousand copies of it, which he distributed 
broadcast among my friends and his own. Some 
people received as many as three copies. His flood- 
ing of the studios with this interview was supposed 
to have killed me. From that moment I was looked 
upon as one no longer living, and Whistler sent me 


From an oil-painting in the possession of 
Dorothy Menpes. 


the following little note: "You will blow your brains 
out, of course. Pigot has shown you what to do 
under the circumstances, and you know your way to 
Spain. Good-by." The butterfly with which the 
note was signed was almost the cleverest part of it. 
It was represented with wings spread and back 
turned, soaring away, leaving behind it, on the end 
of a long tail, a venomed shaft. 

From that time onwards, whenever my name was 
mentioned, Whistler was wont to say, "Eh, what? 
Meneps — who's Meneps? " All the poor little follow- 
ers by whom he was surrounded echoed, and are no 
doubt echoing still : " Meneps ? Who's Meneps ? " 

Whistler had always a strong sense of humour and 
a love of practical jokes. He was the same Whistler 
even when a boy. I remember hearing once from a 
lady who knew him well — they had been children 
together, and at the same little school — the story of 
Whistler's first spanking. It came about through 
Jimmy's love of practical jokes. Their schoolmaster 
was a rector, a worthy man with a prodigiously long 
neck. He was in the habit of wearing enormous col- 
lars, to hide this unfortunate defect. One day little 
Whistler marched into the school rather late, wearing, 
in order to produce a greater effect, an enormously 
long collar entirely covering his ears, a facsimile of 
the rector's, which the young rogue had made himself, 
out of paper. The whole school was convulsed with 


laughter; but Jimmy strode solemnly to his desk, 
calm and serene, sat down, and went on with his work 
as usual. For a time the master could only glare at 
him ; but at last, unable to stand it any longer, thun- 
dered down from his desk and made a dive at the 
child. Whistler eluded him and ran into the girls' 
half of the school, where he took refuge behind their 
skirts. They all protected him valiantly for some time, 
especially his little friend; but in vain : the rector 
eventually caught him, and he was soundly spanked. 

As he grew older Whistler's love of practical 
jokes did not diminish. When quite a lad he was 
placed in a Government Office ; but his originality 
wrought his destruction, and he was dismissed. Just 
as he was leaving the Office he passed through the 
chief's room, and his eye was caught by a huge 
magnifying glass which lay on a desk. Now, this 
glass was no ordinary one, but was used on the most 
solemn occasions by the " old man " only, and was 
held in much awe by the staff. Whistler, full of 
bitter thoughts, stooped over the desk for a moment, 
and painted a little demon right in the middle of the 
sacred magnifying glass, and passed on his way with 
a smile. Next day, when the great man solemnly 
lifted his glass to inspect something, he saw nothing 
but a horrid little grinning demon, and dropped it on 
the table with a howl, thinking that he had gone out 
of his mind. 



Very early proof. 


Various anecdotes are related of Whistler's fond- 
ness for jokes. Men who lived with him in Paris have 
told me that the Master was ever full of mischief. 
" One never knew," they said, "what Whistler would 
do next." Those clays he spent in Paris studying 
and struggling, Whistler once told me, were the 
happiest of his life. There also, studying at the 
same period, were Du Maurier and E. J. Poynter. 
Many a story Whistler has told me of the lives they 
led. He told me of a man who used to copy one 
special picture at the Louvre, a picture of a saint in 
a blue dress, for which he always received thirty 
francs. As many copies as he could paint were 
bought for that sum. They were not bad in their 
way, and no one could understand how it was possi- 
ble for him to paint them for that price and thrive. 
Whistler explained his methods. The copyist arrived 
at the gallery quite early, before any of the other 
students, and, looking round the room, noticed a can- 
vas, belonging to a lady artist, with a much-laboured, 
half-finished copy upon it, exactly the size of the 
picture he, the painter, wished to copy. Watching 
carefully until the attendant was out of sight, he 
very rapidly and cleverly slid the canvas from off the 
easel of the lady artist on to his own, and quickly 
covered it with earth colours — ordinary pigment he 
could not afford. Then he would sketch in his pic- 
ture and carry it as far as possible before the students 


arrived. By and by the lady artist appeared, and 
missed her canvas. There was a great fuss, and a 
cry all over the room of the " lost canvas." From 
the top of a high ladder the venerable painter at 
work on his blue-robed saint looked down reprovingly 
through his spectacles, and said, in an authoritative 
way: "Hush! The students must not be disturbed! 
What do you say, madam? Your canvas has gone? 
Nonsense, my dear lady : it can't walk ! What 
size may it have been?" The lady murmured that 
it was much the size of his own, and, feeling that she 
had been creating too much of an annoyance, started 
to work on a new canvas. Now another difficulty 
presented itself before the painter. His picture was 
nearly finished ; but it required certain and expen- 
sive colours, such as rose madder and cobalt blue. 
Soon an amateur sailed in, trying to look as though 
he had lived his life in a studio, but with "amateur" 
written all over him. Dressed in a velvet jacket with 
silk facings, and a voluminous necktie carefully 
twisted round to one side to look careless, he took 
up a position directly underneath "the painter," 
and started to work on a large canvas with much 
elaborate paraphernalia. He squeezed out great 
worms of the most expensive colours on a large, bran- 
new palette, and started to copy a picture with much 
care and consideration. Ere long the little man on 
the ladder climbed down and started on a tour of 

Trial proof, with dark tippet. 

With fur tippet indicated in wash. 


Trial proof, with light tippet. 

Trial proof, without tippet. 

~_v_, -.'--L. '•_. ■ , 

Final proof, with rich fur tippet. 


inspection round the gallery, criticising the works as 
he passed ; for he was an old hand, and his opinion 
of some value. He paused for some minutes 
before the picture of the newcomer, looking with 
a cold and critical eye backward and forward from 
the copy to the original. Soon the novice began 
to feel his gaze, and turned sharply round ; but the 
wily artist was gazing elaborately at the ceiling. 
This went on for some time : until, at last, the new- 
comer asked him flatly if he could see any thing- 
wrong with his picture. "No — not at all," said the 
other, nonchalantly, proceeding to go on his way. 
"Now, look here! I know there is something you 
don't like about my picture. Be a good fellow, 
and tell me what it is." — " If you really want to 
know, I will tell you frankly. I don't think that — 
that figure is quite — quite — in proportion." At this 
the artist began to gesticulate with his right hand, 
as all Frenchmen do, holding the left over his 
shoulder with the palette on his thumb — Flip ! — 
off went a fat curl of rose madder safely folded in 
the critic's palm. Then, as the palette went back 
again, to make the poor wretch more excited, he 
suggested that a certain blue, which was obviously 
greenish, was too purple. This suggestion always 
proved a great success. The palette was flung back 
again, and all the pigment scraped off with a care- 
ful forefinger. Then the helping friend went off with 


his magnificent haul to finish his picture, leaving 
the artist muttering to himself, with indignation : 
"Ridiculous! ridiculous! Anybody can see that that 
is a greenish blue. Purple indeed ! " By and by you 
would see him stand up and look curiously about him, 
examining first his coat tails, and then his sleeves. 
After gazing for some time with blank amazement 
at his swept palette, Avhich looked as though some- 
one had been sitting on it, he would squeeze out 
more pigment and begin to spoil his Avork by cor- 
recting the badly drawn figure, and altering the 
offending blue to verdigris. He would probably 
end his days in the nearest lunatic asylum. The 
painter meanwhile, though wrecking other people's 
lives, lived and throve upon his thirty-francs-apiece 
pictures painted from borrowed pigment. He was 
by nature a great entertainer, and was continually 
giving little parties to the students at the Louvre in 
his fifth-floor attic. 

Whistler was invited many times, and once he 
had the curiosity to accept the painter's invitation 
and attend one of the banquets. He was met at the 
entrance by the little man, who appeared to be much 
enraged, and, as they mounted the stairs together, 
explained the reason of his anger. On the first floor 
they passed a door whereon had been painted a single 
human hair, much magnified, and, crawling up it, 
large vellow insects. " Now," said the little man, 

First state, with full face. 


Second state, face redrawn three-quarters. 


triumphantly, "look at that: I painted it! It is 
my revenge ! Every day for the last fortnight I have 
been worried by my landlady, who declares that a 
disturbance is kept up in my room until three or four 
o'clock in the morning." The day before, this ex- 
traordinary person told Whistler, she had been so 
annoying and crotchety that he, as a revenge, had 
been angling for her favourite goldfish which sported 
in a bowl outside her window just beneath his own. 
" She opens the window every morning," he said, 
"and calls the fish by names, — Rose, Rose, Rose; 
Fanny, Fanny, Fanny, — and then she throws them 
bread. Now, this afternoon I have spent some hours 
and with great trouble have fished every one of 
those creatures up here, fried them, and let them 
down again into the bowl. I look forward to seeing 
her expression to-morrow morning when she opens 
her window and calls for Fanny and Rose and finds 
them fried." 

The table, Whistler said, was laid, for a poor 
painter, very sumptuously, and with all manner of 
good things ; at which he, knowing the poverty 
of the man, was greatly surprised ; but when dinner 
was over and everything had been demolished, the 
painter explained the origin of this display. " I 
have a pet monkey," he said, " which I let down 
from my window by a rope into that of my landlady, 
and trust to providence. Sometimes Jacko returns 


with a loaf, sometimes with a ham. His visits are 
full of surprises — one never knows what may 

Whistler also often gave banquets, both in Paris 
and in London, and especially luncheon parties, 
which in England he called breakfasts. He was 
by nature a marvellous cook, though perhaps rather 
too faddy, so much so that the dishes became cold 
while the sauce was in preparation. One's interest 
never flagged, and one's appetite became more and 
more keen as the hours advanced. Whistler cooked, 
as he painted, with marvellous skill and genius, 
but with great uncertainty. Late in the afternoon 
a golden omelette might be placed upon the table ; 
but then, again, it might not. In cookery, as in all 
things, he was a purist, and showed great decorative 
sense. By the uninitiated, and by those who had 
no sense of decoration, this quality was not 
appreciated. For examples, they did not care for 
tinted rice pudding, and butter stained apple-green 
they looked upon with suspicion. They did not 
realise — how should they? — that as a purist one 
must see that one's butter harmonises with the blue 
of one's plate. 

Whistler, although he was a temperate man, and 
only sipped while other men drank, was a great 
judge of wine. I remember George Meredith telling 
me that Whistler had a finer appreciation of old 


wine than any man he knew, and that, what was 
more, he knew how to talk about it. 

At these little breakfasts of his the Master was 
sometimes forced to be very economical. He often 
said to me: "Look here, Menpes. I wish you would 
go and buy a bottle of eighteen-penny white wine 
from the Victorian Wine Company. We will decant 
it carefully, and, what with my brilliant conversation 
and the refined atmosphere of the studio, these men 
will never know whether it is good or bad. Somehow 
men understand red wine. If you give them a cheap 
vintage, they recognise vinegar ; but with the qualities 
of white wine they are not so familiar." So it always 
proved to be. This eighteen-penny white wine was 
produced at the famous Whistler breakfasts, where it 
was pronounced to be perfect. " A very sound wine, 
very sound indeed," I have heard men say as they 
held it up to the light, handling it carefully as though 
it were priceless — in exactly the same way I have 
seen them caress a blue-and-white plate. I have 
heard intelligent men dilate for hours upon the 
beauty and rarity of certain porcelain which I myself 
have seen Whistler buy at a cheap shop round the 
corner, or which has been presented at our doors in 
company with a pound of Oriental tea. 

At this period Whistler and I nearly always spent 
our evenings together. Sometimes we would look in 
at a play ; but generally it was to a dinner party we 


went. On one or two occasions — but not often, for 
the strain was too much for my sense of humour — 
we accepted invitations to musical evenings. Now, 
Whistler had no sense of music, absolutely none, and 
neither had I : two more unmusical people it would 
be difficult to find. I always sat, if possible, at the 
extreme corner of the room; for to catch Whistler's 
eye was to disgrace myself for ever in the opinion of 
my hostess. His expression as he looked at the dif- 
ferent musicians was too comical for my equanimity. 
I remember once going with Whistler to a house in 
which there lived a family of musicians — geniuses, 
every one of them — ■ and they gave a musical evening. 
Some sang, some played the violin, others the piano ; 
there were 'cellos, fifes, trombones, big drums, and 
every instrument you could possibly imagine. Whist- 
ler, I remember, sat on a Louis Quatorze settee, with 
his mouth wide open and a perfectly blank expression 
on his face, watching these people, as they performed 
one after the other, as though he had been hypnotised. 
He couldn't speak to me, he didn't speak to me ; but 
I heard him muttering to himself, " Pshaw ! what's it 
all about? " Suddenly a lady appeared, an old lady, 
rather plain, but intensely musical, and was looked 
upon with admiration and awe by the entire company. 
She was also a crank, and for some reason — I never 
knew quite why — she always carried bread and but- 
ter in her pocket. She had not the air of a gour- 


From a water-colour drawing in the possession of 
J. J. Cowan, Esq. 


uiand either — I can only imagine that it must have 
been her luncheon, which she carried on her person in 
case of emergency. When I saw her sail into the 
room, I trembled as I thought of Whistler. If only 
she had remained quiet, things might not have been 
so bad. The Master might have forgotten the bread- 
and-butter episode and controlled himself without 
much trouble. She had no consideration whatever. 
When pressed, she rose immediately and began to 
play upon the piano and to sing. Her hands moved 
faster and faster across the notes, and her voice rose 
higher and higher. I turned to look at Whistler. 
His gaze was fastened upon the top of the lady's 
head. I looked up, and there I saw a weather-cock 
whirling at an almost incredible pace, making count- 
less revolutions to the minute, on the very summit of 
her coiled auburn hair. There must have been a per- 
fect gale blowing, for this weather-cock whirled faster 
than anything I have seen on a church steeple ; and it 
was impossible to tell in which direction lay the wind, 
for the arrow pointed now north, now south, so 
rapidly that it was difficult to distinguish between 
the two. Presently the performing lady arose, amidst 
a perfect furore of applause, and after a few words 
in the ear of her hostess, to my utter consternation 
and dismay she was led up, formally introduced, and 
sat down next to Whistler. She asked him what he 
thought of her singing. I heard him say, "Ha, ha! 


amazing ! " ; but could stay no longer, and fled pre- 
cipitately from the room. Half an hour afterwards he 
joined me in the studio. "Let us cleanse ourselves, 
Menpes," he said. " Let us print an etching." 

Sarasate, when Whistler was painting him, often 
used to play to the Master. His playing he really 
enjoyed, "for," as Whistler once said to me after- 
wards, "it was marvellous, you know, to see Sarasate 
handle his violin, especially during those violent parts 
— his bow seemed to travel up and down the strings 
so rapidly, I cannot imagine how he does it." It was 
the dexterity that he admired : the music he did not 

Whistler had one song which he always sang, and 
sometimes he whistled it. It was called, "And his 
Heart was True to Poll." There was never any more 
of it, so far as I could make out ; and whenever a 
picture was going Avell, or he was especially pleased 
about anything, I used to hear him singing in a high, 
falsetto voice, " And his heart was true to Poll." 
When I first came in touch with Whistler, there was 
continually in his company a man who exercised a 
superficial though extraordinarily strong influence 
over him. He was a strange character with a quaint 
sense, altogether his own, of the relative meanings of 
mine and thine. In fact, he was generally known 
among us as the robber pure and simple. The fact 
that he robbed his friends, curiously enough, in no 


Elaborately touched in water colour. 

Unique state. 




wise injured the friendship between them. Among 
robbers this gentleman was an artist, a very prince of 
banditti and a great connoisseur. I have good reason 
to believe that he was the originator of the craze for 
blue-and-white china. Certainly he was a born col- 
lector. He gathered pink coral, and in three weeks 
his collection became the finest in London. If a man 
was placed in possession of his house, he dressed him 
up and made him wait at table. 

The Master very seldom encouraged any of us Fol- 
lowers ; but on the rare occasions when he threw us a 
chance word of praise we valued it enormously, and 
repeated it over and over again to our friends — the 
Master had said so-and-so. I remember my joy at a 
particularly brilliant and sparkling supper party, when 
Whistler acknowledged a remark of mine as being 
witty. Unfortunately, I had not meant it to be so. 
The supper was given to a poor but very clever 
painter, and I was so struck with his genius and 
his poverty that I whispered to Whistler, " I should 
like to send that man an anonymous cheque." The 
Master roared with laughter, and told the whole table 
of this witticism that I had given birth to, "but all 
unwittingly," he added: "he never meant it — it is 
not at all bad for the bush." 

Whistler himself was very vague where money 
matters were concerned. Many a time, as is well 
known, he has found himself in financial difficulties. 


It seems terrible to think that so great a man should 
ever have suffered for want of money ; but it was so. 
One day he was in great trouble. He had received 
what he called " a quaint piece of paper," which, 
I saw at a glance, was a final application for rent, 
accompanied by a threat that if the money was not 
paid the next morning a man would be put in pos- 
session. At that moment he was preparing an exhi- 
bition, and half the pictures were in the house. If 
the man in possession were to appear, the enterprise 
would be stopped. Whistler was very serious over 
this, and wanted to know what was to be done. 
" Can't you go into the city and sign something, 
Menpes," he asked, "something that will bring in 
money?" Alack! neither I nor Whistler had any 
knowledge of city habits. At length we decided that 
we had better call on the auctioneer in person. We 
started coolly and calmly and a trifle frightened ; but 
Whistler soon decided that his only hope in talking 
to this auctioneer was to lash himself into a furious 
rage. I remember that walk so well. All the way 
along he kept murmuring to himself: "It's mon- 
strous ! This thing's impossible ! How dared they 
send such a paper to me, an artist in the midst of 
my work? The man must be demented ! " and so on, 
until, by the time we had reached the office, he was 
in a magnificent condition. As we entered, a very 
humble-looking little man was drying his face with 


Trial proof, third state. 

Trial proof. 


a towel. "Do you know who I am?" thundered 
Whistler. Looking as though he had been shot, the 
auctioneer said he thought he was Mr. Whistler. 
"Yes: I am Mr. Whistler," the Master replied in 
clear, cold tones as he handed him over the notice ; 
" and I beg that you will explain yourself. What 
do you mean by sending me all these papers that I 
have received from time to time? Each notice has 
become more vicious in colour and in character, and 
at last the colouring has become so atrocious that 
I have come to demand of you what you mean by 
arresting an artist in his career? And I want you 
to understand that it is not always convenient to lay 
down one's work to attend to sordid details of this 
kind. Do you also realise, sir, that there is such a 
thing as excess of zeal? It is possible that your 
master may chide you for having thus hindered the 
work of a great painter. It is also possible that 
he may blame you for lumping all your clients 
together and treating them in the same manner. 
There are exceptions, my good auctioneer, — there 
are exceptions. But, after all, how should you 
know? I had forgotten that you were only an auc- 
tioneer. You can let your master know," added 
Whistler, as he laid the notice on the table, " that 
I, Mr. Whistler, have been here " ; and with that 
he swept out of the shop, leaving the auctioneer 
speechless. He turned to me as we left the office. 


" I think he has now a better idea of my position," 
he said. 

Our next act was to gather together enough money 
to pay the rent, for we had sufficient business instincts 
to know that the man would still be put in possession. 
It took us many hours ; but at length we managed to 
sweep in the amount in five-pound notes, pounds, and 
even odd shillings. Then Whistler was worried. He 
thought there should be some explanation for paying 
these people in pounds, shillings, and pence. " They 
will say that the Master is really hard up, because I 
cannot send them a cheque," he said: "I must write 
them a letter." With that he wrote one of his mar- 
vellous letters, in which he explained that in dealing 
with people so vulgar and so little accustomed to the 
habits of the polite world he had found it necessary 
to put himself to the trouble of sending them their 
money in coin. 

Whistler at a country house was very amusing. 
There was no one quite like him. He was unique. 
However good the chance of sport might be, no one 
ever went out shooting, and no one wanted to. At 
any time one entered the smoking room one saw him 
surrounded by a bevy of men, all fascinated with his 
stories of the latest scalped ones. Wherever Whistler 
went, he always found plenty of people to listen to the 
details of his quarrels and friendships, to wade 
through a mass of correspondence, and to read end- 



less press cuttings. On occasions Whistler had been 
known to drift out into the open and become a sports- 
man. A man told me that he once persuaded him to 
go out with a gun, and he told me he had not been 
out long before the most extraordinary thing hap- 
pened. "Suddenly," he said, "Whistler had a mar- 
vellous chance. A large bird — it might have been a 
peacock — came sailing majestically up to him. I 
whispered to him, 'Now's your chance!' Whistler, 
having been brought up at West Point, knew all about 
loading. He soon loaded his gun, fixed his eyeglass, 
and fired ; and — it Avas a most extraordinary coinci- 
dence, but — the next thing I realised was that my 
favourite dog was shot. Nothing more was said, and 
somehow or other we drifted back home. That was 
the only day's sport I ever had with Whistler." 
When I told the Master this story, he laughed, and 
said: "Yes: I did shoot the dog. It was a dog with- 
out artistic habits, and had placed itself badly in 
relation to the landscape. But," he added, "the good 
gentleman forgot to tell you that on the way home he 
emptied a full charge of shot into the leg of a boy." 

Whistler had no sympathy whatever with the 
sportsman. He was too gentle to look upon the 
killing of animals as sport. In all his little quarrels 
he avoided using physical force wherever it was pos- 
sible. His fighting, though humiliating to his adver- 
sary, was in reality nothing more forcible than the 


fluttering of a dove. He loathed vulgarity of any 
kind, and war he looked upon as a terrible proceeding. 
Especially he disapproved of our mode of warfare. 
He held very decided views upon our latest war in 
South Africa. He considered that British conduct 
altogether was faulty. In fact, he maintained that 
nothing that was done in relation to South Africa was 
done well. " First of all," he would say in his whim- 
sical way, " a Commander-in-Chief must be had. The 
authorities search the list. They find nothing in the 
A's. They come to the B's. Buller. Buller, now: 
what has Buller done? They refer back, and find 
that when Buller was at Eton he fought a butcher 
boy and licked him. Ha! ha! good muscle," and 
Whistler, in his dainty way, struck with his cane 
his forearm, — " muscle, muscle. This man had mus- 
cle; we English want muscle; so out goes Buller, 
the muscle man, without any regard to his fitness 
for the post, or to his local knowledge." That is 
the way, according to Whistler, that the British man- 
age everything. 

He was just as severe when he talked of all the 
European Powers in relation to China. "What are 
they doing out there?" he demanded. "Fighting 
against China, one of the most polite nations in the 
world, engaged in a war that will only result in this 
horde of impolite soldiers destroying a number of 
exquisite blue-and- white china pots ! " 


From a water-colour drawing in the possession of 
J. J. Cowan, Esq. 


As for the United States, he could find some ex- 
cuse for their conduct in relation to the war with 
Spain, the most polite nation in Europe. Then he 
described, in his own inimitable way, how, after a 
famous battle, the Spanish Admiral was fished up out 
of his own sunken vessel and brought up on to the 
deck of an American battleship looking like — like — 
and Whistler paused awhile for a suitable descrip- 
tion, — "well, for all the world like a clod of cotton- 
wool pulled out of an ink bottle, and was received by 
everyone on board with all the pomp and ceremony 
due to his position, as if he had just stepped on board 
to inspect his own ship." 

"Whistler had no Socialistic instincts. He was not 
by any means a Socialist. His only excuse for the 
masses was that they were a blot of colour to be 
painted. To overeducate them, he said, was absurd. 
The Master was a Tory. He did not quite know why; 
but, he said, it seemed to suggest luxury; and paint- 
ers, he maintained, should be surrounded with luxury. 
He loved kings and queens and emperors, and had a 
feeling that his work should only be bought by royalty. 
Whistler was like a child in these matters. He was 
continually painting fantastic pictures of himself with 
a title. Once he said to me, " I wonder what it would 
feel like if the fishmonger opposite, when he brought 
in my bill, were to say, ' Your little account, Sir 
James.' " 


Religion did not occupy the Master very much. 
His work was his religion, and that was perfectly 
pure. Still, he was a Spiritualist, and for years he 
pottered with table-turning and spirit-rapping. He 
used to tell me of the long talks he had with Dante 
Rossetti at nights, and the extraordinary things that 
used to happen. Once he was leaving the studio 
with a model, and suddenly he asked her to place 
her hands upon a certain table and use her will 
power. This she did, and very soon there was a 
great knocking and rapping on the table. " Gentle 
spirit, is it good?" — "No," said the spirit: "it is 
bad." — "Gentle spirit, don't come again," said the 
Master; and he promptly removed the table. One 
night we were sitting alone in his little cottage in 
Walham Green, talking, as usual, about people and 
gossip generally, when suddenly — it must have been 
about twelve or even later — there came a rap at the 
window --a sharp, keen rap- — Ping! The Master 
sprang off his chair. "What is that?" he cried. 
Instantly I conceived a mischievous impulse, and, 
knowing his weakness for ghosts, thought I would 
frighten him. Silently I caught his eye, and moved 
my hand round in a semicircle, Whistler's gaze 
following, until I pointed to his long cane, which 
stood in a corner of the room. I knew he imagined 
that it was this cane that knocked at the window. 
Whistler gripped me by the arm. " For heaven's 



sake, don't say that, Menpes! " he urged; and, although 
it was already late, he kept me there for hours, 
talking and reassuring him. It was daylight before 
I was allowed to leave the house. The works of 
Edgar Allan Poe influenced Whistler immensely. 
His essays and writings benefited enormously by 
his contact with that clever man. He read very 
little — I never saw him read a book ; — but he has 
told me many times that he much admired Bret 
Harte. In fact, he thought him a far greater liter- 
ary genius than Dickens or Thackeray. Dickens he 
could find no excuse for at all. 

No man knew his limitations better than Whistler. 
They affected both his literary work and his painting. 
He rarely undertook work that he could not do well. 
He was a little nervous concerning the delivery of his 
famous "Ten o'clock." Scores of times — I might 
almost say hundreds of times — he paced up and 
down the Embankment at nights repeating to me 
sentences from the marvellous lecture. He feared 
lest his voice should not carry, and certainly his 
performances at Prince's Hall never equalled those 
nightly ones by the side of the Thames. 

First state, unique. 







For oils, Whistler, differing from most artists, 
never used a palette. He used a table with a pol- 
ished top. "Whistler felt that it was a hindrance to 
have a palette dangling on his fingers. The colours 
on his palette, when he did use one, he arranged in 
a manner which he maintained to be highly scientific. 
Beginning with flake white in the middle, on the left 
hand he placed lemon yellow, cadmium, yellow ochre, 
raw sienna, raw umber, burnt sienna, and ivory black ; 
on the right, vermilion, Venetian red, rose madder, 
cobalt blue, and Antwerp. Thus, on one side he ran 
through the yellows, from light-yellow to browns ; and 
on the other through the series of reds, beginning with 
vermilion and ending with madder. Then, the blues 
and the blacks were on separate sides. He placed 
the white in the middle : to keep the two groups apart. 

When painting a life-size portrait, the Master 
began on a canvas previously prepared with flake 
white and ivory black, forming a neutral grey. He 
then spread on his palette, with a large brush, a great 
patch of the general flesh colour, and scrubbed that 
flesh tone on to the canvas in one patch. Thereupon 
he began to work the violets and the rose, carnation, 



and pearly tones of the flesh into this local colour 
spread half over the palette. He never worked inde- 
pendent little patches of colour in different parts of 
the palette. Every detail, every tone of the flesh, 
was amalgamated and incorporated in this general 
mass, to preserve a oneness ; and his picture was 
more than half painted on the palette. 

Having charged his brush with the colour, he put 
it on the canvas cleanly and in one sweep. There 
was no attempt at what is called broken colour, which 
results in a series of accidents causing the picture 
finally to represent a Persian carpet rather than a 

When Whistler's day's work was over, and one 
examined his palette, it was always beautiful, and 
merely a repetition of his picture. You saw the flesh 
tones, with the little touches of Antwerp blue that 
had been dragged into it at the last moment to sug- 
gest the veins, and the violets and the rose tones. 
You could trace every part of the picture on that 
palette. Even the eye became on the palette a mixed 
tone and a part of the flesh. So it was with every 
other part of the picture, — the dress, the background, 
the floor : — all the different tones were to be seen on 
the palette ; even the shadows mingling with their 
own local colour, and becoming a part of it. Black, 
as a harmoniser, Whistler used with every tone. He 
was never without it. Even if he painted a white 


From an oil-painting in the possession of 
W. Flower, Esq. 


shirt front, black was always used ; and when he 
painted a girl with pink bows, the bows would have 
black in them. This colour, used so continually, gave 
to Whistler's pictures a certain marvellous pearly 
grey quality which was one of the chief charms of 
his work. Then, of course, the grey-toned panel 
upon which he painted shone through the pigment 
and gave an added greyness. 

Whistler never patched up his pictures. He 
never worked, as many painters do, day after day 
upon one small portion of a picture. To him such 
a method meant failure — the picture immediately 
became spotty. His only hope was to form a new 
skin entirely, to sweep off the last attempt, and begin 
afresh, each time he set to work. Often Whistler 
received as many as twenty or thirty sittings from 
one person, and at every sitting he began over again as 
at a new picture. The result was a oneness, a fresh- 
ness, quite incomparable. Whistler worked always 
with great firmness. He held his brush firmly and 
pressed hard on the canvas. There was no " dainty 
touch " about Whistler's handling. He worked in 
clean and firm sweeps. For example, if in a por- 
trait it were necessary to bring the background up 
to a figure, he would mix the tone of the background, 
and with a large brush well pressed into the canvas 
would draw the line confidently, and with one firm 
sweep from the head right down to the heel. 


There was no trickery in the work. All the tones 
were put on in a crisp way with firmness; yet the 
tones came so close together in value that there was 
no suggestion of hard edges. As a rule, his figures 
were posed far into the atmosphere of the studio and 
more or less in gloom, while his canvas was in the 
light. Thus, in order to get a true representation of 
the model, he had to bring his tones very nearly to 
the same level. That is why most of Whistler's pic- 
tures appear to be what some people call flat. 

I noticed that when working from a half tone to 
a shadow he always used raw sienna, and, as a medium, 
turpentine and linseed oil. He used very flowing 
colour; and even the most solid part of a picture, 
such as the whites in linen, were sufficiently trans- 
parent for the ground underneath to show. "Whistler 
never loaded his pictures with pigment, but worked 
in thin films of colour. 

He was not difficult to please in so far as posing 
was concerned. Almost any position a model took 
seemed to him a picture. There was no pulling 
about of drapery, no gazing through arched hands, 
no special placing of the body. He allowed the 
sitter to do what she liked, more or less, and arrested 
her whenever her pose formed a picture. He was 
generous to his sitters, and made them feel that 
they themselves were doing half the work. 

I used often to marvel as I watched the slender 

Second state, washed with Indian ink. 





Vv ^sL 



Second state. 


figure of Whistler working upon such huge canvases, 
his sinuous lingers wielding such enormous brushes, 
almost as large as a house-painter's brushes. Every- 
thing he used in his painting was colossal — brushes, 
canvases, and a table for a palette. Carlyle, when 
he was being painted, was very much impressed with 
the outfit. " You are indeed a workman," he said : 
"your tools are the tools of the workman." 

When one praised a picture of Whistler's, he was 
generally flattered; but in a way his feelings were 
hurt. He felt that it was unfair to his other pictures. 
In his opinion they were equally fine. He himself 
never weakened to such an extent as to praise one 
above another. That would cast a slight upon the 
rest. To mention the picture of the Mother always 
roused him. He would say, " Wait until the Sarasate 
is as old as the Mother, with a skin of varnish upon 
it that has mellowed, — then you will call that my 
chef cVwuvre!" When the Mother was freshly 
painted, no gallery wanted to hang it, and the 
Academicians thought that it was a black-and-white 

In water colours Whistler always used Chinese 
white Avith every tone, to give body to the pigment- — 
just as in his oil colours he used ivory black. But 
his water colours were very fair and delicate, 
whereas his oil colours were somewhat low-toned. 
In each medium he relied a good deal on the ground 


lie worked upon for the general tone of his picture. 
In water colours the white paper showed through, and 
in oil colours the grey tone of the canvas. 

Whenever I was with him, Whistler and I used to 
make experiments. For example, we tried panels 
of brown paper, some varnished and some plain ; 
and I was continually bringing him different boards 
to experiment upon, both in oil and in water colour. I 
remember once persuading the Master to try minia- 
ture painting on ivory. It was most amusing. I 
prepared the ivory and the brushes, and laid them 
out ready for his use. Whistler looked critically 
for some time, and then said: "Well, what's it all 
about? What have all these miniature people been 
doing, Menpes?" — "The great miniature painters," 
I answered, " used transparent colour, and sometimes 
a little gum in the shadows."- — "Gum! gum!" 
cried Whistler. "We can't have gum. Don't they 
use white?" I firmly put down this suggestion. 
Whistler, I knew, was longing for body colour. I 
told him that miniature painters used white sparingly, 
because, naturally enough, they did not want to lose 
the quality of the priceless ground upon which they 
were working Whistler began by using transparent 
colour ; but gradually he introduced white — he 
couldn't help it. He was painting a little head, 
which eventually was a perfectly delightful picture, 
though exactly the same as though it had been painted 


First proof, without butterfly. 



on his own panels. Suddenly lie drew himself up. 
"Why am I working on ivory?" he demanded. 
"Why am I not working on paper? This ground 
is slippery and unsympathetic." And, after all, it 
was useless, because the ivory was completely lost. 

Pastel the Master revelled in, and this medium 
he treated very much as he treated oil colours and 
water colours. He began with a fine drawing in 
black chalk, a complete picture in itself; then he 
would heighten the drawing with a few simple tones, 
leaving as much of the brown paper as possible. 
He never worked upon a ground that required killing. 
That was a waste of time, he said, and a handicap : 
one could not procure clean crisp tones — it was 
necessary to go over them so many times. 

For some of his pictures he had innumerable 
sittings. One instance was the painting called the 
"Blue Girl." The father of a family of three or 
four girls told me that each maiden in her turn, 
as she reached the desired age, had sat to Whistler 
for the same picture — until at last even the youngest 
had grown too old, and the picture was finished with 
a damsel from another family altogether. It was 
discouraging for sitters to come time after time, as 
they did, and always to find the work of the former 
sitting, which they imagined to be so fine, swept 
from the canvas, and an entirely new work begun. 
Sir Henry Irving has told me that he posed for 


Whistler many times. At last, after having given 
him twenty sittings, and still finding the canvas 
swept and bare, except for a small piece of linen, 
he said, " How is it that in all these sittings I 
have given you you have only painted a piece of 
linen?" — "Ah," said Whistler; "but who save the 
Master could have painted that linen? Surely that 
is excuse enough." 

Whistler hated parting with his work. It pained 
him to have to sell a picture. He loved it. Money 
seemed a poor consolation for its loss. He was in 
this respect a mere child. It was touching to watch 
him, when it became necessary to give away an etch- 
ing or a water colour, trying to choose which one he 
should part with. He was like a mother with her 
little children — loving each one as much as another, 
hovering over his creations, fearful to choose. Once 
he had to select an etching to give as a present to his 
physician. He first laid eight or ten proofs out care- 
fully on a sheet of white paper and placed them upon 
the table. "Now, Menpes," he said, "if you were me, 
which one would you choose to give the doctor?" 
Naturally, knowing the ways of the Master, I pointed 
to the one I thought least successful. Looking at me 
with affectionate approbation, Whistler murmured : 
"What instinct! Of course that is the only one — 
we must give him that proof." But even when it 
was chosen, and the finest proofs remained, he hated 


From a water-colour drawing in the possession of 
J. J. Cowan, Esq. 





parting with it. From that moment it possessed for 
him new beauties. He placed it apart on white 
paper, isolated it, and raved about it. ' ' Why should 
I give it to the doctor?" I heard him mutter. By 
and by I saw him wrap it up, and put it away with 
the others. He looked curiously sheepish when he met 
my eye. This would occur over and over again, until 
at length Whistler consented to part with the proof. 

Whenever he sold a picture, it was always from 
that moment a real work with him to try and get it 
back again — not because he was mean, but because, 
somehow, he felt that his work should be in the pos- 
session of the chosen few who really valued it. He 
would often say to me : " A dealer called to-day and 
wanted some proofs ; but, of course, I could not let 
him have them — such things are only fit for crowned 
heads. This dealer neither loves nor understands 
them. A doctor — yes : from him it is possible to 
recover them ; but a dealer — why, it is like losing 
a string from a violin ! " Nevertheless, friends who 
really loved and appreciated Whistler's work could 
always procure it, no matter how poor they might be. 
Did he need money ever so badly, Whistler would in- 
variably refuse the guinea of the dealer for the six 
shillings of a sympathetic friend. 

One night he was to dine at a lady's house. Un- 
fortunately, in the dining room was hanging one of 
his early pictures. This destroyed all chance of his 


entertaining the guests by brilliant conversation. He 
spent the evening talking about his pictures, spring- 
ing up now and then to peer into this one and caress 
it with his handkerchief. He loved it, and felt that 
it was not in sufficiently sympathetic hands. Towards 
the end of the evening he implored his hostess to send 
it round to his studio the next morning to be revar- 
nished and cared for, and generally put into proper 
condition. The lady, in a trusting way, complied, and 
sent it to him. For years she wrote innumerable 
letters begging Whistler to send back her picture ; 
but still it remained in the studio being cared for. 
He showed me the last letter he received, a charm- 
ingly sympathetic note, in which the lady said, "I 
can live no longer without my beautiful picture, and I 
am sending to have it taken away." — " Isn't it appall- 
ing?" he cried. "And she is presumably a woman 
of the world and of great habits!" I saw nothing 
appalling about it ; but I murmured, " Extraordinary," 
thinking that that would more or less cover the situ- 
ation. "Just think of it, Menpes!" Whistler con- 
tinued in an excited voice. " Ten years ago this 
woman bought my picture for a ridiculously small 
sum, a mere bagatelle, a few pounds ; she has had the 
privilege of living with this masterpiece for ten whole 
years ; and now she has the presumption to ask for it 
back again. Pshaw ! The thing's unspeakable ! " 
In his criticism of the work of other painters. 

First proof. 


ancient and modern, Whistler was very interesting. 
I have been many times with him to the National 
Gallery, and heard him talk technically of master- 
pieces there. He would turn his attention, perhaps, 
to a Rembrandt portrait, put his eyeglass on, and 
look closely into it all over, and then say : " It's 
gummy ! It has a gummy, Avhat you call a fat, juicy 
quality about it that I don't like." I can quite im- 
agine people getting into a condition in which such a 
quality might appeal to them. To me Rembrandt was 
obviously a man of great facility ; but I imagine he 
did not suffer much when he worked. Rembrandt 
never had wakeful nights because of technical diffi- 
culties — the sort of nights that every great painter 
must have. Up to a certain standpoint he accom- 
plished thoroughly good work, and I must admit that 
he was a man who had what may be called his good 
days — days on which he produced what the world 
calls Rembrandt's masterpieces. " But," said Whis- 
tler, " these so-called masterpieces are not great works. 
They are pictures that you look at and are interested 
in merely because of their technical dexterity." 

From Rembrandt Ave passed on to some of the 
smaller Dutch pictures. Catching sight of a little 
Terburg, Whistler pounced upon it with delight, and 
examined it intently. It might be a Dutch kitchen, 
and there would perhaps be only one small face in the 
tiny picture that appealed to him. " Ah," he would 


say, "what have we here? Rembrandt has never 
painted anything to equal this little bit of flesh. 
Here we have no trick of the brush, no dexterity, no 
obviously marvellous technique ; but the little lips, 
and the eyes, and the pearly tones of the shadows, 
all seem a part of the flesh tone, just as they are in 
nature ; and it is so utterly simple that one is quite 
unaware of any apparent cleverness." Perhaps in 
this Terburg only this one piece of flesh appealed to 
Whistler. The rest of the portrait he would barely 
look at. " He's got it this time," you would hear him 
mutter; "but he does not understand blacks." 

From room to room we went, not studying any 
particular school, but just picking out a picture here 
and a picture there, as it appealed to the Master. I 
was anxious to hear his opinion upon Turner, and, 
almost unconsciously perhaps, directed his steps to 
the room where the famous work was collected. 
Whistler put on his eyeglass, and looked very long 
and carefully at one or two pictures without saying a 
word. I felt that Turner's work must be touching 
him; but the Master shook his head, and said: "No: 
this is not big work. The colour is not good. It is 
too prismatic. There is no reserve. Moreover, it is 
not the work of the man who knows his trade. 
Turner was struggling with the wrong medium. He 
ought not to have painted. He should have written. 
Come from this work, which is full of uncertainty. 

Very early proof. 

Early state. 


Second state. 


Butterfly in pencil within plate mark, and signed 
"Whistler ist proof." 


Come and look at the paintings of a man who was a 
true workman." So saying, he led me straight to a 
Canaletto. "Now," he said, "here is the man who 
was absolute master of his materials. In this work 
you will find no uncertainty." He talked of his 
drawing and of the crisp, clean way in which the 
tones were put on. "Do you know," he said ear- 
nestly and credulously, " there are people who main- 
tain that the figures in pictures of Canaletto were 
painted by another man ? Now, isn't that absurd ? Of 
course those figures were painted by the master hand 
of Canaletto. Only he could have painted them. But 
then," Whistler broke off suddenly, "after all, what's 
the use? His work is as little understood as mine." 

We looked at a Velasquez. Whistler said: "Here is 
another good workman. He, too, knew his trade and 
his tools. I place him upon the same plane as Cana- 
letto. The two men run side by side. Their works 
are equally fine." He cast but a cursory glance upon 
the Italian pictures. I never could persuade him to 
linger with them. They did not appeal to him in the 
least, and even a Giorgione he scarcely recognised as 
being good work. The English school of Romneys, 
Gainsboroughs, and Reynolds he would not tolerate 
at all. For them he could find no place. Seldom 
could I induce him even to look at them. Once I 
stopped him in front of a Constable. "Yes," he said 
thoughtfully : " what an athletic gentleman he must 


have been ! And how enamoured he evidently was 
with his palette knife ! Many a happy clay, I warrant, 
Constable spent with that palette knife, and then — 
dear! the country — how wearied one must get of 
green trees ! " 

Just as we were leaving the gallery, Whistler 
caught sight of a row of Turner's. "What a series 
of accidents ! " I heard him murmur. 

Once, only once, I went to the Royal Academy 
with Whistler. The visit discouraged him terribly. 
He looked round upon the pictures. "This exhibi- 
tion," he said, "is enervating and discouraging beyond 
words. Here is a collection of pictures which is, of 
course, common and interesting work for the most 
part; but there is a certain smart handling, a certain 
superficial cleverness and facility. Do you know, 
Menpes, I couldn't do that?" Of course, he was 
right. He realised how hard it was for him to pro- 
duce an effect. It did not come easily to him. He 
often placed a picture on an easel and talked about it 
in an airy way, as if it had been blown on ; but, 
as a matter of fact, it was invariably the result of ex- 
treme care and pains. It was characteristic of the man 
to be disturbed and troubled about work which really 
did not count at all. " How foolish that trick of the 
brush is ! " he would say ; adding, in the same breath, 
"But how does he do it, Menpes, do you think?" 

I remember once examining some water colours 


From a water-colour drawing in the possession of 
J. J. Cowan, Esq. 


with Whistler at the Fine Art Society. They were 
pictures of Venice, and painted in clear, transparent, 
flowing tones, with great dexterity. It struck one 
that the man had accomplished everything he had 
intended. "Whistler told me that he had met this 
man while he was painting in Venice. He himself 
was then working upon those marvellous pastels on 
brown paper which are now invaluable. This artist 
happened to be staying at the hotel, and he made a 
foolish bet that he could go out at once and produce 
pastels which would be as fine as, if not finer than, 
those of the Master. Whistler accepted the challenge ; 
and the man went out and brought back, with great 
assurance and in a surprisingly short space of time, a 
series of pastels on brown paper which he considered 
to be as fine as, if not finer than, those of the Master. 
He himself unblushingly asserted that he considered 
the drawing to be cleaner and crisper, and the colour 
finer, than Whistler's. When the work of the two 
artists was laid side by side and submitted to the 
judgment of the painters in Venice, the unfortunate 
stranger was wiped off the face of the earth, as it 
were, and the verdict was given unanimously in favour 
of the Master's pastels. Still, Whistler was struck 
by a quality about them which, though superficial, 
was dexterous. "This," he said, "is obviously the 
work of a man who could work and smoke at the 
same time and call it a pleasing art." 

Trial proof. 




11/ V 


/ Si 



Trial proof, without dry point. 

I \ 






Many people look upon Whistler more as an 
etcher than as a painter. That was for a simple rea- 
son. Whistler's pictures have been bought only by 
the few, and are exhibited at galleries but rarely. 
His etchings, on the other hand, are scattered broad- 
cast in hundreds of homes and exhibitions. There- 
fore, it is his etchings, not his pictures, that have 
gained for him the universal admiration and recogni- 
tion of the world. From his very earliest days 
Whistler was an etcher. I met at a dinner-party 
a lady who went to a quaint little school with 
Whistler when they were both very young. Regularly 
every day small Jimmie would escort her home, and 
Avas continually bringing her little love poems and 
drawings, many of which she possesses now. She 
remembers well one examination time when they all, 
both boys and girls, had to draw maps. Little 
Whistler drew a map so extraordinary that she begged 
him to give it to her after it had been exhibited at 
the school. She thought there never was such a map 
— so beautifully drawn, every little town and village 
clearly marked with all the delicacy and beauty of 
his etchings of Venice. 



As a lad he was set to engrave maps for the Coast 
Survey. He had never done such work before, but 
was given a copper plate and all the necessary tools. 
He started to make an elaborate drawing, mathe- 
matically accurate, the work of an expert engineer 
draughtsman. He drew in clean lines that suggested 
the work of the graver. It was marvellous mechani- 
cal work. But Whistler must needs show his indi- 
viduality even here. Almost unconsciously, for the 
purpose, first of all, of trying his point, he began to 
spread himself on the margin, sketching exquisite, 
characteristic figures, free in line and crisply drawn. 
They were typical little Whistlers such as we know 
now. He began even at that early age as an etcher. 
Unfortunately, this plate, when finished, was placed 
in the etching bath during Whistler's absence from 
the office, without any attempt at stopping out the 
marginal notes. The result was a print which stag- 
gered the principal. Young Whistler was called 
before him for an explanation. In answering to his 
superior, he took the line that became habitual. He 
considered it a presumption in anyone to dare tamper 
with the work of an artist. The margin was a very 
suitable place on which to try his point. He himself 
should have been allowed to " bite in " the plate. As 
a matter of fact, it was a very providential coincidence 
that Whistler's map was plunged into the acid bath, 
marginal sketches and all. The lovely little figures 


From a water-colour drawing in the possession of 

Mrs. Menpes. 


were obviously of so much greater merit than the 
mechanical drawing that he became convinced of the 
magnitude of his own prowess. In this way he 
began his brilliant career as an etcher. 

It was in connection with Whistler as an etcher 
that I first came into contact with him. He had just 
returned from Venice after having created that marvel- 
lous series of Venetian etchings, the lagoons and the 
nocturne palaces. It was at a period when Whistler 
as an etcher was really at his height — when he was 
creating his finest masterpieces. At about that time 
I was working under E. J. Poynter at the South Ken- 
sington Schools ; and I remember well, as if it were 
but yesterday, my first meeting with Whistler. He 
was in a little room at the Fine Art Society — a room 
which had been set apart for him to print a series 
of twelve plates, a commission from the Society. The 
moment I saw him I realised that I had at last come 
into contact with a master. I became conscious that 
I was meeting face to face one of the greatest painters 
living. From that hour I was almost a slave in his 
service, ready and only too anxious to help, no matter 
in how small a way. I took oft' my coat there and 
then, and began to grind up ink for the Master. I 
forgot the Schools — these were finished and over for 
ever. I never went back again — I simply fagged for 
Whistler and gloried in the task. 

By and by from this little room at the Fine Art 


Society the Master drifted into a room in my own 
house which I had fitted up with printing materials, 
and it was in this little printing room of mine that 
most of the series of Venetian etchings were printed. 
Here it was that Whistler taught me the art of etch- 
ing, and it was seeing these plates printed day after 
day that first gave me a real insight into Whistler. 
The care with which he etched a plate was extraordi- 
nary. Sometimes he spent half an hour endeavour- 
ing to procure a true point on his needle, one that 
would not tear the copper. And then his method of 
biting in a plate was totally different from that of 
anyone else. He used nitric acid. There was one 
period, to be sure, when he used hydrochloric ; but it 
did not last for long. The nitric, he found, gave a 
slightly rougher line, fuller in colour. Then, Whistler 
never dipped a plate into an acid bath in the usual 
manner. He poured the acid upon the surface 
of the copper, and played it about by means of a 
feather, for all the world as if he were at work on a 
black-and-white drawing — only, the feather end was 
used instead of the quill. Thus, he produced infinite 
variety ; although, no doubt, it entailed more labour. 
Unlike Rembrandt, and unlike most artists, who start 
with etching at the beginning of their lives and finish 
up with dry-point, Whistler mingled the two methods 
usually ; but there was one period, a middle period, 
when he produced a whole series of pure dry-points. 



Curiously enough, towards the end of his life the dry- 
point almost disappeared, and was rarely used even 
as an auxiliary. 

Whistler maintained that the etcher should print 
his own plate. In that, as in most things, he was 
perfectly right. The work is not complete until it 
has been printed. We judge of it not from the 
copper, but from the printed proof; and, as that 
printing requires the handling of an artist just as 
much as would a water-colour drawing, it is obvious 
that when a professional printer prints a plate it 
becomes the work of two men instead of one, which 
on the face of it cannot be right. Collaboration was 
an abomination to the Master. The printing of an 
etching is not like the printing of a visiting card. It 
is for the etcher alone to decide whether, for example, 
the brilliant black lines should be placed upon a 
golden ground of Dutch paper, or whether they should 
be enveloped in a deep tone. Much of Whistler's 
etched work was done on the bench while he was 
actually printing. I have seen him print twelve 
proofs, and every proof a state. He would continually 
keep adding dry-point and scraping, and, as he him- 
self would say, caressing the plate into form. Once 
Whistler sent a few of his plates to be printed by a 
professional printer, and I was fortunate enough to be 
with him when they arrived at the studio. In the 
packet of proofs there was not one that in the least 


resembled a Whistler proof. All the delicacy and the 
distinction of his etchings seemed to have gone. They 
were cheap, common, and practically valueless. It 
was obvious that the plates had been wiped with 
a metallic hand, in a hard sweeping movement, until 
the surface of the plate was cleansed mechanically. 
Then the ink had been dragged up to procure what 
the printer proposed to call a rich full proof — a proof 
that Whistler called gummy and treacly. And here 
I should like to warn the collector against these pro- 
fessionally printed proofs — the shiny, brown, and 
vulgar vellum proofs which, now that the Master has 
gone, will probably come on the market. I should 
like to impress upon him that plates so printed cease 
to be the Avork of the Master, and are therefore value- 
less from the collector's standpoint. My only prayer 
is that the plates may be destroyed, or presented to 
a museum, and that the professional printer will 
never be allowed to touch them. After examining 
these proofs, Whistler turned to me and said, "Menpes, 
destroy them ; " and there and then I set to work and 
tore the entire stack of proofs to ribbons. That was 
Whistler's last attempt at collaboration with pro- 
fessional printers. 

Now I will endeavour to give a slight sketch, not 
too technical, of Whistler's method of printing. To 
begin with, he always insisted upon having old paper 
— preferably Dutch, because of a quality it gave to 

First trial proof. 


Second trial proof. 



First state of the plate, urulescribed in Wedmore's 




With dry point added, undescribed in Wedmore's 


the ink which cannot be imitated. It is of a texture 
which only age can produce. The texture of paper 
changes considerably with age. As years go on all 
traces of size disappear; yet you feel that at one 
time it must have contained a considerable quantity. 
It has been proved over and over again by practical 
experiment that for etchings old paper is preferable to 
new. Rembrandt and all the great etchers have found 
it so. Whistler spent endless time searching for it. 
Often he and I passed weeks in Holland poking about 
antiquated book shops ; sometimes finding a large col- 
lection, sometimes only a single sheet. On occasions, 
after having discovered a stack of three or four thou- 
sand sheets, I have seen Whistler literally tremble 
with excitement and scarcely know how to ask the 
price for joy. Then, when the Master had made a 
purchase, he and I would stagger to the hotel under 
the weight of a huge parcel, rather than run the 
slightest risk of losing it. Whistler perfectly under- 
stood the value of the tone of the paper upon which 
he printed, and always preserved a fairness of tone. 
He rarely overbit a plate or sullied the golden tone of 
the paper with too much work. He realised that a 
flat tone of old Dutch paper mounted on a Whatman's 
board was a beautiful bit of decoration in itself, having 
more artistic merit than nine-tenths of the ropy foolish 
etchings which are constantly produced. In many of 
his plates there is no attempt at a big design, but 


simply a lacework of exquisite lines so fair and deli- 
cate that the broad tone of golden paper is preserved. 
Having provided himself with this Dutch paper, 
Whistler's next care was in the preparation of the 
ink — the choice of blacks and browns. One of the 
blacks he used was made from the dregs of port wine, 
and his favourite brown was simple burnt umber. 
Then came the mixing of the oil and the powder into 
exactly the right consistency, the damping of the 
paper in such a manner that it was neither too wet 
nor too dry, the difficulty of procuring the right 
temperature of a plate, and the wiping of it. Now, 
the wiping of one of Whistler's plates required quite 
as much skill as the painting of a picture. No part 
of a plate was ever wiped quite clean : there were 
always films of colour left. Whistler was most par- 
ticular in the smallest detail connected with the print- 
ing of a plate. He took as long a time to trim the 
margin of a proof as any other printer would have 
taken to print it, He had a method of his own by 
which he cut away the margin and left a little tag 
upon which he placed his butterfly. Over this cutting 
away of the margin Whistler was exceedingly particu- 
lar. I have often seen him work laboriously at a proof 
with a knife on a piece of glass for a long time, care- 
fully following round the edge of it, just touching the 
plate mark, without even a ruler or any mechanical 
means to procure a clean cut. " I use no ruler," said 


From an oil-painting in the possession of 
J. J. Cowan, Esq. 


he, in answer to a question, "because I wish the knife 
to follow sympathetically the edge of the proof. Even 
the cutting of this paper, although you may not know 
it, is vibrated and full of colour. There is just as 
great a difference between my trimming of a proof 
and the trimming of a professional cutter as there is 
in etching between a wiry line and a full rich one." 

No one was ever quite like Whistler in this 
respect — so exquisitely dainty and careful over the 
smallest detail. Then, again, he always studied the 
artistic placing of his butterfly upon a proof, in order 
to create the perfect balance of an etching. He 
taught me many a valuable lesson in this respect. 
In fact, Whistler seldom placed his butterfly on a 
proof without first saying to me, " Now, Menpes, 
where do you think the butterfly is going this time ? " 
It used to be a little joke between us, and after some 
months of habit I was invariably able to put my 
finger on the spot where the butterfly would create 
the balance of the picture. 

To the student who reads this chapter and is sin- 
cerely interested technically in the printing of etch- 
ings, I should like to explain Whistler's method of 
printing ; and I shall divide his work up into periods. 

First of all, in his very early periods of printing, 
he loved the full black proof. Then there came the 
dry-point period, when he inclined to the cool and 
silvery side, with a quality suggestive of pastel. In 


a later period, at the time of the Venice plates, when 
he was printing those marvellous nocturne palaces, 
his pigment became warmer in tone. Last of all, still 
with a love for rich colour, Whistler wiped his plates 
cleanly: the lines were less full, less charged with 
ink: the ideal proofs of this period were suggestive 
of ivory. I have often looked over portfolios of 
Whistler's etchings with the Master himself, and 
sometimes I have persuaded him to talk and give 
me reasons for the changes in his methods, and have 
asked him to tell me how he produced certain effects. 
For printing in those days became a passion with me. 
It had possession of me, and I was never weary of 
questioning Whistler with regard to his methods. 
We would look, perhaps, at some proofs of the early 
French set of 1858 and 1859 — proofs which had in 
all probability been printed by Delatre. They might 
be proofs from the plate called " The Kitchen." 
Whistler would look at them, and say: "Well, well, 
well ! Not bad, not bad ! But I have learnt some- 
thing since then, I think, Menpes. At that time I 
struggled to get tone with my etchings in a laboured 
way." Delatre's printing, Whistler always main- 
tained, was far finer than that of any English pro- 
fessional printer. "Delatre," he would say, "had the 
wit to work for a flatted surface, instead of the 
ghastly, glassy varnish so loved here in England." 
He explained to me how that Delatre, to procure 



this effect, always used nnburnt oil; "but," he said, 
•' good as these proofs undoubtedly are, they have one 
grave fault, which applies to the printing of nearly 
every professional, and that is the struggle to procure 
that terrible quality which is called richness. They 
none of them can resist retroussage — they all must 
needs drag the copper with the muslin to form what 
they call a full line. Every printer, even Delatre, 
overdragged." Then, perhaps, in turning over the 
proofs, we would come across one of the Master's own 
printing, a dry-point looking like a fair beautiful pas- 
tel in quality. This interested him. "Ha, ha!" he 
would say. " Now, here is a proof that could only have 
been printed by one man — myself," looking at me 
with an encouraging smile as if to say, "You are 
doing very well." With great care he would place 
it on a large sheet of Whatman's paper, in order by 
its whiteness to give full value to the golden tone of 
the Dutch paper on which the proof was printed. He 
would then lay it on the floor and talk of it critically 
— choosing the floor to allow him to examine the 
picture as a w r hole from a distance. I remember him 
once placing side by side with his own work a plate 
from Hamerton's " Etching and Etchers." He sim- 
ply laid the two together and laughed. He said not 
a word — no explanation was necessary. One, from 
a distance, looked a meaningless jumble of black-and- 
white spots, which might have been anything from a 


coal-scuttle to a fire-escape ; the other, although it was 
very slight, — a long slim line of Venetian palaces, 
or a slight study of a nude figure, — had about it 
strength and breadth, and was a decorative pattern. 
By and by Whistler would take up a proof of a noc- 
turne palace with a deep rich tone all over it, as deep 
as a mezzotint, and say, as he looked at it : " How 
hopeless it would be to try and procure this tone 
by any mechanical roughening of the surface of the 
copper! Such a result is only possible by leaving 
films of tone upon the plate." 

In this book I reproduce, in a few instances, a 
series of proofs from one plate in order to show the 
thoroughness of the Master, and to demonstrate his 
method of correcting a plate. A notable example of 
this will be found in the etching of Maud standing. 
There are five different proofs from the one plate. In 
the first, Maud wears a fichu of pleated stuff ; in the 
second the fichu is charcoaled out, and a fur tippet 
indicated ; in the third there is a tone over the tippet ; 
in the fourth he does away with the tippet altogether ; 
and in the fifth and final proof, when he adds his 
butterfly, the tippet, full and rich in colour, is brought 
back again. I have reproduced this series of proofs 
to demonstrate Whistler's thoroughness and determi- 
nation, and to show the technical difficulties against 
which he had often to contend. It is obvious that 
the Master must have suffered over this particular 



plate : the point did not flow freely. Then, again. 
I have also reproduced some proofs of Irving as 
Charles I. This is a very exceptional series. Here 
one finds Whistler battling with the same picture on 
two different plates. One might imagine that the 
four proofs were all printed from the same plate ; 
but two were printed from one plate, and two from 

At one period of my intimacy with Whistler I 
seemed to live in the printing room day and night. 
From grinding up ink I developed and developed 
until at last I was able to print for him myself. 
Once — how well I remember! — that morning seemed 
to mark the beginning of a new epoch in my life — 
everything seemed to be going wrong, and I was 
rapidly becoming hopeless. It seemed as though I 
should never be able to print a satisfactory proof. 
Luckily for me, it was a bad day for the Master also. 
He was printing one of his nocturne palaces, and 
was not at all satisfied with the results. Whistler 
often had days when proof after proof was printed 
and failure attended each. On this particular morn- 
ing he was feeling exceptionally discouraged, and, as 
all great men are at times, he was in the depths of 
despair. At last he turned to me, and said half 
jokingly, "Why don't you try and print a palace, 
Menpes?" I was overjoyed. The chance of print- 
ing one of the Master's plates was bliss too great for 


my immediate comprehension. Eventually I began. 
1 inked the plate, wiped it, and pulled the first 
proof; and from that day to this I have never for- 
gotten my nervousness as I took the proof from off 
the plate, and laid it upon a sheet of white paper, 
aping the Master. I begged that Whistler would 
turn his back while my first attempt was carefully 
spread out and placed in position. When the proof 
had been prepared, he put on his eyeglass, looked 
at it, and said, "Amazing! Try another." Such 
praise from the Master flattered me immensely, and 
from that day onward I printed constantly for 

In his own delightful way, he would explain that, 
after all, it was not I who was printing them. 
" Your hands, 1 know, Menpes, are doing the work, 
and your palm wipes the plate ; but it is my mind, 
the mind of the Master, that is in the work, making- 
it possible for you to do it. I have educated and 
trained you, and have created an atmosphere which 
enables you to carry out my intentions exactly as I 
myself should. You are but the medium translating 
the ideas of the Master." 

Often Whistler would turn up at my studio early 
in the afternoon, and tell me that he wanted twenty 
proofs printed from a certain plate, wearing canary- 
coloured kid gloves and not looking at all like a 
printer. After directing me as to the mixing of the 




ink, and generally getting the work in full swing, he 
usually suggested that I should continue printing for 
the rest of the day, and went off to a garden party. 
A few hours afterwards he would call for the proofs, 
and be so stimulating and encouraging in his praise 
that one felt amply repaid for the work. 

From a pastel in the possession of Edmund Davis, Esq. 





Whistler as President of an Art Society was in- 
finitely witty. He carried oat his character of purist 
to a remarkable extent. In a word, he figuratively 
took off his coat and set to work to cleanse the 
Society with the hot water and soft soap of his own 
good taste. It was an exceedingly interesting experi- 
ment. I would not have missed one of those memo- 
rable meetings. At times I laughed until I cried, 
while my mirth was drowned by the angry shouts 
and complaints of the members about me. 

Never has there been, and probably there never 
will be again, such a president as Whistler. He was 
unique. As to the duties of his position, he was not 
quite clear; but he had in his mind certain things 
of which he wished to speak. The result was disas- 
trous. The President at a meeting is supposed to en- 
courage the members to talk, and give their opinions ; 
but that was not Whistler's idea. He sat in the Presi- 
dent's chair and talked himself. He talked for hour 
upon hour. He was brilliant, flowing, caustic. Was 
this the same man whom they had elected as President ? 
the members whispered one to another, — this epigram- 
matic person who talked not to them but at them ? 



One of the first things Whistler did was to make 
a member of myself. He took me under his wing, 
as it were, and engineered me into the Society in an 
incredibly short time. Myself and a few others, 
all friends of his, Whistler gathered together and 
formed into an inner circle, whose sacred duty it was 
to fight for the Master and protect him. On the 
night before one of the exhibitions we met at his 
studio, where he explained his plan for cleansing the 
Society. I, as a member of the Hanging Committee, 
was instructed to be ruthless in rejecting pictures. 
He impressed upon me the necessity of saying, " Out, 
damned spot ! " " Never weary, Menpes, of say- 
ing ' Out.' If you are uncertain for a moment, 
say ' Out.' You need never be afraid of rejecting 
a masterpiece. We want clean spaces round our 
pictures. We want them to be seen. The British 
Artists' must cease to be a shop." And out they 
went, one after the other, until very few and select 
were the pictures reserved for the exhibition. But 
these few were hung faultlessly, and in a decorative 
pattern, with plenty of wall space round each of them. 
Undoubtedly the pictures were shown at their best 
advantage. Whistler started by redecorating the 
gallery, " cleansing " it. as he himself said, procuring 
a neutral tone, and rejecting all other hangings and 
decorations. It was an exhibition on Whistler's lines. 
■We used muslin to festoon with. Unfortunately, tow- 




ards the ceiling it ran short, and certain of the 
battens were left exposed; but time was valuable, 
and Whistler allowed the omission to pass. I sug- 
gested that perhaps the critics might complain : 
they might call the gallery unfinished and a skeleton. 
Whistler imperiously waived my objection upon 
one side. "What matter?" he said. "If they 
complain, we can simply tell them that the battens 
form decorative lines and are well placed." In a 
very short time he had quite convinced himself and 
all of us that these exposed battens were indispen- 
sable to the scheme of decoration. But somehow or 
other the neutral tone of the walls, and the decora- 
tive hanging, did not seem to appeal to the average 
British Artist. The Society felt that, although 
artistically they might be improving by leaps and 
bounds, financially they were becoming just as 
rapidly ruined. Still, all these men had in their 
hearts a great, though reluctant, regard for the Master 
as critic and as painter, perhaps as critic especially. 

On the morning of the first exhibition, when the 
pictures had been hung and the arrangements com- 
pleted, all the members assembled in the gallery to 
await the arrival of the Master. He was late, and 
many were the nervous conjectures as to what he 
would say concerning such-and-such a picture - 
whether he would praise or condemn it. At length 
it was said that the Master had arrived. There was 


intense excitement. We were self-conscious, yet tried 
to appear at ease. The Master entered, faultlessly 
dressed, walking with a jaunty step, evidently 
delighted with himself and the world in general. 
He passed down the gallery humming a French chan- 
son, and, never noting the members, walked straight 
up to his own picture. There he stayed for quite 
fifteen minutes, regarding it with a satisfied expres- 
sion, stepping now backward, now forward, canting 
his head, dusting the surface of the glass with a silk 
pocket-handkerchief. We watched him open-mouthed. 
Suddenly he turned round, beamed upon us, and cried 
enthusiastically, " Bravo, Jimmy ! " Then he took my 
arm and hurried me out of the gallery, talking rapidly 
of the luncheon we were about to have. 

Whistler was very amusing in his attempts to 
'• cleanse" the Society in the teeth of opposition from 
the British Artists themselves. He left not a stone 
unturned to complete their artistic triumph. The 
smallest detail was treated by him as important. For 
example, of the Society's notepaper and the stamp 
upon it, Whistler did not approve. Immediately he 
designed another, a small red lion, decorative and 
dainty in the extreme. On the first proof sent from 
the stationers he wrote to me a little letter. To 
show what a joyous, light-hearted, almost boyish man 
the Master could be on occasions, I will repeat it. 

" I write on the official sheet, dear and most 


From a pastel in the possession of Edmund Davis, Esq. 


respectful one, because I am in love with the look of 
it. Isn't it really brilliant and fascinating as a pic- 
ture? And ni}'- little red lion — isn't he splendid and 
well placed ? 

"What's the use ! " 

This letter I have kept, as, indeed, I have kept 
and cherished all Whistler's letters. 

Then, again, the signboard was a cruel thorn in 
the Master's side for fifteen minutes, during which he 
regarded it in sorrow before he ultimately had it dis- 
placed and sent off to his studio, where with a few 
sweeps of his brush he rapidly transformed the Rick- 
ett's-blue enamel-and- white lettering of the original 
into vermilion, bearing upon it a lion, the sign of the 
Society, and a cleverly drawn, well-placed, large but- 
terfly. The Society of British Artists, printed in 
small block letters, did not at all interfere with the 
harmony of the whole. But this seemed to add the 
final touch to the oppression of the British Artists. 
This signboard was the last straw. They became 
exasperated. Whistler's ideas were too pure for the 
Society. He was cleansing them too thoroughly. 
The Society rebelled. There was a strong agitation 
to depose Whistler and place another in his stead. 

The rebellion culminated at a meeting. Two or 
three fluent speakers attacked Whistler on the ground 
of his having impaired the dignity of the Society. 
They accused him of having brought too many eccen- 


tricities among them. It was impossible, they said, 
to keep pace with such ideas. Also, their pictures 
were not selling. Whistler's answer was stupendous. 
He withered them as they sat there — withered them ; 
and turned to grind his heel on the faded fragments of 
the fight. He put on his eyeglass and cast upon this 
circle of British Artists a slow, comprehensive, medi- 
tative stare. Then, at length, he said sweetly, and 
with some concern: "You know, you people are not 
well! You remind me of a ship-load of passengers 
living on an antiquated boat which has been anchored 
to a rock for many years. Suddenly this old tub, 
which hitherto has been disabled and incapable of 
putting out to sea, to face the storm and stress of the 
waves, is boarded by a pirate. (I am the pirate.) He 
patches up the ship and makes her not only weather- 
tight, but a perfect vessel, and boldly puts out, running 
down less ably captained ships, and bearing a stream 
of wreckage in her wake. But lo and behold ! her 
triumphant passage is stopped, and by the passengers 
themselves. Unused to this strange and unaccustomed 
movement, they are each and every one of them sick — 
ill. But, good people, you will e'en live to thank 
your captain. But then you talk of my eccentricities. 
Now, you members invited me into your midst as 
President because of these same so-called eccentrici- 
ties which you now condemn. You elected me 
because I was much talked about and because vou 


^ --«■' 


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#«" At -' 


■■■A •■ ^ 




imagined I would bring notoriety to your gallery. 
Did you then also imagine that when I entered your 
building I should leave my individuality on the door- 
mat ? If so, you are mistaken. No, British Artists : 
I am still the same eccentric Whistler whom you 
invited into your midst." 

So the conversazione continued. It was a big 
fight from start to finish. Whistler made a dramatic 
exit, taking with him in his triumphant train quite a 
number of British Artists. His parting words were, 
" I am taking with me the Artists, and I leave the 
British." Many were the gaping wounds he left 
behind him, and almost innumerable the scalps and 
trophies of the chase he hung upon his walls. 

Unfortunately, just about this time a coolness, 
quite a slight one, had sprung up between Whistler 
and myself. I had retired about two months before 
the dramatic exit. I remember that night well, sit- 
ting alone at the Hogarth Club, eating a light supper, 
and seeing Whistler sail into the room in the brightest 
possible spirits, bringing with him the purified Artists. 
This was on the very night when he had been deposed. 
His train consisted of a small detachment that had 
sent in their resignations. There they were, seated at 
a big table drinking champagne, and loudly exalting 
the Master. Whistler seemed quite indifferent, but 
gay and debonnair. In his hand he held a swinging 
toy like a policeman's rattle that tinkled out "Yankee 


Doodle." I sat quietly at my little table by the 
window and watched the party, longing to be one of 
them and feeling hopelessly in the cold. My trans- 
gression was that I had left the sinking ship two 
months before the Master ; and I was therefore termed 
by him "the early rat." I felt somehow that he had 
not forgotten me. I caught him looking once or twice 
in my direction. At length he could restrain himself 
no longer, and called to me, " I say, Menpes, come 
over here." Once having forgiven, Whistler was 
never churlish. He made way for me and seated me 
on his right. I was once more his friend and devoted 
slave, and felt again, as indeed I was, a privileged and 
happy person. I shall never forget that long line of 
cleansed Artists. In a way it was a pathetic picture. 
They all felt that life was indeed worth living. They 
imagined that a brilliant future was before them with 
the Master at their head. I whispered to Whistler, 
"What are you going to do with them?" Whistler 
looked at me for a moment, and a quizzical smile 
curled his lips and twinkled in his eyes. "Pshaw, 
Menpes ! " he cried. " Lose them, of course." 

Whistler visited the gallery of the British Artists, 
with an escort of followers, shortly after abdicating. 
He saw a picture by a well-known Royal Academician. 

" Ah," he said, as he stood looking at it through 
his eyeglass, "it is like a diamond in the sty." 


From a water-colour drawing in the possession of 
J. J. Cowan, Esq. 



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a- \- 


One of the most interesting periods of my friend- 
ship with Whistler was at a time when I had the 
privilege of being of some small assistance to him 
during three of his exhibitions. In the arrangement 
of his work Whistler showed himself to be more 
than ever a purist. It was a revelation to me. I 
had never imagined that one human being could 
be so completely a master in minute details. He 
missed nothing, absolutely nothing, and he dominated 
to an extraordinary extent. 

First of all there were the choosing of the pictures 
and the framing of them. Whistler's frame maker, 
when he first employed him, was an ordinary work- 
man ; but very soon, under the influence of the 
Master, he became an impressionist. (He felt that 
he must spread himself somewhere, and his impres- 
sionism took the form of music- — in short, he learnt 
to play the violin.) The next work was to cut 
the pictures to fit their frames. This was invariably 
a terribly trying time both to Whistler and to the 
people by whom he was surrounded. Often he was 
in such frantic excitement that he has said to me : 
" Look here, Menpes : you take the pictures and 



cut them in the way you think best. I leave it to 
you ; but, for heaven's sake, don't let me see them 
before they are framed." 

When the pictures had been framed and sent 
round to the gallery, Whistler, with much care, 
would arrange them on the ground so as to form a 
decorative bit of placing. And thus they would be 
hung. Whistler, himself, always superintended the 
smallest detail in his exhibition. The colouring of 
the room was arranged in accordance with the 
pictures ; so also were the hangings, which were 
festooned in beautiful lines around the gallery. The 
Private View card was the object of much care and 
consideration. Such details as the cut of the letter- 
ing and the placing of the type were all-important. 
Whistler would actually go to the length of training 
a member of the printing firm especially to put a 
touch of colour on the butterfly by hand. At one 
of the exhibitions there was a picture called "The 
Blue Girl," which occupied a central position on 
one of the walls. At the last moment, early on the 
morning of the Press Day, Whistler came to the 
conclusion that he was not pleased with the painting 
of the mouth. Immediately he mounted upon a 
ladder and began to retouch it. It was terrible 
to watch him. He kept on painting the mouth, 
rubbing it out and repainting it ; still it mocked 
and defied him. It seemed like a living thing. It 


From an oil-painting in the possession of 
J. J. Cowan, Esq. 


changed continually. Sometimes it would simper, 
and sometimes the lips would curl in a sneer. After 
a time the picture lost its freshness. Whistler would 
now and then deceive himself into thinking he was 
satisfied. He would climb down from his ladder, 
and say to me: "Isn't that fine now? Much better 
than it was. I am not going to touch it again." 
No sooner had I turned my back than up he would 
climb and set to work to rub out the mouth and 
paint it in as though for dear life. By and by he 
became nervous and sensitive. The whole exhibition 
seemed to centre on that one mouth. It developed 
into a nightmare. At length, in despair, he dashed 
it out with turpentine, and fled from the gallery 
just as the first critic was entering. 

There was an exhibition called "Flesh Colour and 
Grey." "Whistler decided that the decorations for 
this exhibition should be of flesh colour and grey 
alone. He insisted upon the colour scheme overflow- 
ing a little into Bond Street and oozing out via the 
" chucker-out," whose uniform was to be grey with 
flesh-colour facings. After a month of standing out- 
side Whistler's show, the man was touched with the 
Master's enthusiasm. Eventually he became one of 
his most earnest students. He was constantly to be 
heard expounding Whistlerian theories to his open- 
mouthed cronies round the corner. I overheard him 
one day asking a superior if he should clean the 


" toney" from off the windows, — " dirt " being absent 
from Whistler's vocabulary, — a word which was always 
translated into " tone." The poor fellow was com- 
pletely demoralised when the exhibition was over. 
Feeling that he was quite unfitted for his career as 
" chucker-out," he drifted off into a new life, never to 
return to his old haunts. 

When all the pictures had been hung to Whistler's 
satisfaction, he gave us a little dinner at the Arts 
Club, — Walter Dowdeswell, who was a most sincere 
and enthusiastic admirer of the Master, myself, and 
another. We were gathered for the purpose of 
pricing the pictures, and we drank a wine of which I 
have never known the name. All I remember is 
that it was cheap, sparkling, and not champagne; it 
was, I think, what is commonly known as "artists' 
wine." Ill-natured people who were not of the party 
whispered "gooseberry"; but that suggestion, I feel 
sure, was due to the promptings of envy. At any 
rate, its stimulating effect upon us was great. After 
dinner the pictures were priced, and with each addi- 
tional bottle that was placed upon the table the prices 
mounted higher and higher. A picture of a shop 
painted in St. Ives, called " The Blue Band," was held 
out for our inspection. We gazed at it for some time 
in silence. Dowdeswell said boldly, " £40," and 
then looked uncertainly round the table with a scared 
expression as if to say, "What have I said?" Whis- 



j \S^m 




tier put on his eyeglass, and surveyed him critically. 
After more sipping I suggested £50. The Master 
received the remark quite calmly. He seemed now 
to be indifferent, and left all discussion to his follow- 
ers. But the colder he grew, the more enthusiastic we 
waxed, until at last Dowdeswell said, in a burst of 
enthusiasm, " Well, if the public doesn't care to give 
£60 for the picture, far better would it be to live 
with it." — "Quite right, Walter," said Whistler, ap- 
provingly, "quite right. I see you have appreciation. 
It is, as you say, a supremely fine work." Then I 
became excited. "I should make it £80," I cried in 
a nervous, spasmodic way, as though I were taking a 
header into a cold pool. Whistler looked at me be- 
nignly. "I like these bush instincts, Menpes," he 
said. "Yes: I distinctly like them." He himself 
did not drink much ; and never was he calmer, cooler, 
more collected. Somehow his coolness spurred us on 
to fresh efforts. Our enthusiasm mounted to fever 
heat. In the end " The Blue Band " was priced at 

So we continued throughout the evening. The 
pictures were priced at what seemed to be fabulous 
sums. None of us, of course, realised that under the in- 
fluence of drink we had really become prophetic: that 
we were placing Whistler on a plane where he should 
be. To outsiders the prices seemed ridiculously 
extravagant. We ourselves had misgivings next 


morning when the catalogue was printed, and the 
east wind was blowing, and we were away from the 
wine. It was Press Day. I arrived on the scenes 
very early — at half-past nine, when the gallery was 
scarcely open. Dowdeswell joined me, and together 
we paced before the pictures on the wall. We looked 
at each other, and at the exhibition, critically, but in 
dead silence. Neither of us uttered a word. We 
would not have admitted it for the world ; but there 
was no doubt about it — in the cold daylight we 
were thoughtful and depressed. Brilliant and spark- 
ling, the Master entered, and, with a few words, picked 
us up again. He knew the value of his own work, 
and he soon impressed us with his views, — dealers and 
all. He hypnotised the dealers, as he did everyone 
else ; and they worked for him loyally. They showed 
the right spirit. It mattered little to them whether 
they sold the Master's work or not. They felt that it 
was sufficient privilege merely to exhibit them. Whis- 
tler literally bubbled over with joy. " Now," he said, 
"I can't have this. You must smile. Be merry, 
laugh, all of you ! " Dealers and pupils mechanically 
worked up smiles to please the Master. It Avas 
splendid. The Master swept one rapid glance round 
the gallery. " There is," he said, " only one thing 
lacking, gentlemen, to complete the picture which 
this gallery should create. And that is the butterfly 
— a large painted butterfly on the wall." There and 



then a ladder was brought. Whistler wished the 
butterfly to "be almost on the ceiling. It was an 
anxious moment, — the Master aloft on a tall ladder, 
breathless disciples below. The ladder jolted, and 
Whistler bobbed as he aimed at the wall with his 
long brush ; but each bob caused a stroke in the right 
direction, and in shorter time than it takes to tell the 
butterfly was caught, as it were, on the wing. It was 
obvious to everyone that the Whistler butterfly had 
pulled the exhibition together. 

It was amusing to watch Whistler when the 
journalists began to arrive. Unless a critic was 
sympathetic, the Master treated him with scorn. An 
antagonistic man was torn to ribbons before he left 
the gallery ; scarcely a shred of him was left to show 
to the world that he had once been a writer with 
views. Whistler had held the poor fellow up to ridi- 
cule before everyone, and the Dowdeswell gallery had 
rung again to many a roar of laughter. To be sure, 
Whistler was irresistibly funny. He would take a 
reporter by the arm, and lead him up to a very 
small and dainty picture of a shop in a fantastic 
Whistlerian frame. Then, anticipating all criticisms 
and complaints, he would din them into the man's 
ears, repeating them one by one, until the wretch had 
not a leg to stand upon. He would examine the 
reporter's face, and looking at the picture alternately, 
would say, after having apparently given the subject 


much thought: "It is very small, — isn't it? Very 
small, indeed. And if you come quite close, you can 
smell the varnish. That is a point, distinctly a point. 
It will enable you to discover that the picture is an 
oil colour. Don't you make any mistakes and call it a 
water colour. Now, this pastel, — it's very slight — 
isn't it? If you were only to touch it with your 
ringer, the colour would come off." No matter how 
clever the reporter might be, he never got a word in 

The first Press man, a very insignificant-looking 
person, arrived at about half-past ten or eleven. 
Whistler was standing in the middle of the room sur- 
rounded by his marvellous exhibition of flesh colour 
and grey. The little man drifted into the gallery, and, 
taking Whistler for one of the attendants, asked him 
if he would kindly show him the way to Mr. Whistler's 
exhibition of pictures. He evidently imagined him- 
self to be in the entrance to the gallery. Coming up 
hastily at that moment, Mr. Dowdeswell drew the 
little man on one side, and explained to him that this 
was the Master with whom he had been talking. 
Whistler was furious, and screamed. The critic 
looked as though he wished the earth might swallow 
him. Whistler mercilessly shouted to the attendant, 
" Who is this man? " with emphasis on the last word. 

" Mr. , representative of Funny Folks, sir," 

answered the commissionaire. "0, it's Funny Folks, 


From an oil-painting in the possession of Messrs. 
Laurie and Co. 


— is it? " Whistler began; but I fled from the battle- 
field in dismay, Whistler's eldritch laughter ringing 
in my ears. 

If by chance a Press man were sympathetic, 
Whistler altered his tactics. He would say: "My 
dear fellow, in pointing out to these poor dear people, 
the public, how hopelessly wrong they are, you have 
a battle to fight, and a severe one. Now, I will tell 
exactly what you are to say in this article that you 
propose writing." He would then proceed to give the 
man word for word the whole gist of his article. 

When the criticisms appeared in the papers next 
day, Whistler read them with relish, never miss- 
ing one. It was the attacks that interested him. 
The praise, as Whistler himself said, was obvious : he 
knew it all beforehand. The reading of notices in- 
volved a series of long letters to be written, and a rush 
on my part to the various newspaper offices. 

On his Private-view Day, Whistler was in his ele- 
ment. It was always more like a reception than a 
private view of pictures. People came there as to a 
drawing-room. And Whistler was admirable in the 
way he received his guests. Never was there a more 
perfect host. He seemed to be everywhere, talking 
to everyone at the same moment. The whole after- 
noon was a continuous joy. When everyone had gone, 
Walter Dowdeswell, Whistler, and myself, with one or 
two others, went to the Arts Club to dine and talk over 


the events of the day. Only a few pictures had been 
sold ; but that did not depress us in the least. We 
were just as buoyant, just as hopeful, as ever. And 
here I must mention the splendid way in which the 
Messrs. Dowdeswell and Mr. Ernest Brown of the Fine 
Arts Society fought for Whistler in those early days, 
when his work was misunderstood and undervalued. 
They believed in him always, and were ever ready to 
help him and save him pain. For example, over 
twenty sets of Whistler's etchings printed by a pro- 
fessional printer were brought round to the Dowdes- 
well galleries for him to look over. He was not 
satisfied with them, and had not decided whether they 
should be passed. I begged him to destroy the proofs 
and print the plates himself, and Dowdeswell without 
a moment's hesitation seconded my petition. And, 
mind you, these proofs were printed ready for publi- 
cation ; whereas under the Master's hands it was 
uncertain when they might be finished ; it might be 
in a month's time, it might be in a year. I never 
forgot Dowdeswell's generosity. The Master was 
extraordinarily fortunate in having such men as 
Dowdeswell and Brown to fight his battles. They did 
much to help him in the earlier days of his career. 




From a lithograph. 

From a lithograph. 

■-i -<■ ----- :.•*.', u ,. 


Whistler had very strong views in connection 
with house decoration. He could not bear vulgarity 
and the foolish struggle to turn suburban villas into 
palaces. He abominated the pretentious dado, the 
converting of drawing-rooms into bric-a-brac shops, 
the crowding of knick-knacks, and the distribution 
of superfluous objects conspicuously because of their 
associations. He maintained that the very best 
medium of all for coating walls with was distemper. 
It was clean and easily renewed, and with it one 
procured a finer quality of colour. If Whistler were 
distempering a small house, his first thought would be 
to create a oneness in colour throughout. For exam- 
ple, he would never dream of introducing into an old- 
rose room lemon yellows, apple greens, and Antwerp 
blues: such a room in his opinion must be of one 
simple, broad colour. Whistler's method of procuring 
a fine quality in distemper was almost exactly the 
same as that which he used when painting his pic- 
tures. Before putting it upon the walls he prepared 
a groundwork of black and white, forming a neutral 
grey which broke through and gave to the colour a 
pearly quality. The tones that appealed to him most 



for distempering rooms were lemon yellow, Antwerp 
blue, and apple green. But there was nothing that 
Whistler loved more than a plain white room. White 
appealed to him. He loved the silvery greys that one 
sees in the interior of large white rooms. I have 
often heard him say that the apartment which at- 
tracted him most of all in people's houses was the 
pantry, which had "nice whitewashed walls." The 
woodwork of a room he generally liked to have all 
white : a true white — no subtleties, no cream or ivory 
tones, but — a clean flake white with nothing added. 

Furniture, in Whistler's opinion, should be as 
simple as possible and be of straight lines. He did 
not care for what are commonly called "comfortable 
chairs." He hated anything that suggested laziness 
in any way. Comfort never appealed to him. I could 
not picture Whistler sitting in an armchair by the 
fireside. That was not typical of him at all. The 
chairs in his house were dainty and upright. "If you 
want to be comfortable," he was wont to say, "go to 
bed." A piano I never saw in a house of Whistler's. 
The shape of it would have upset him. The walnut 
wood, the spiral legs, and the ornamental fretwork 
would have been an abomination of detail. One never 
saw many books about. Although he possessed a 
marvellously retentive memory, he never read much. 
I cannot imagine Whistler quietly reading a book. 

The Adams and Chippendale period for furniture 


From an oil-painting in the possession of 
W. Flower, Esq. 


he approved most of all, and lie liked anything that 
was genuinely Japanese. In nearly all his rooms one 
saw cheap Japanese jars, beautiful in colour. He 
never hung a picture on his walls unless it Avas his 
own. Occasionally he would hang a few of his etch- 
ings on a lemon-yellow wall, just because he liked the 
harmony of the old Dutch paper against the yellow. 
To hang them merely because of their intrinsic in- 
terest he considered inartistic. Silver attracted Whis- 
tler immensely: the colour delighted him. He bought 
silver with great judgment, not because it was rare, 
but because it was beautiful from the artistic stand- 
point. Lovely little pieces of early English silver 
found their way to Whistler's rooms, — nothing that 
would have been valued by the collector, but silver 
that was decorative in line. 

When I first met Whistler he had just completed 
the painting of the Peacock Room belonging to Mr. 
Leyland, and he was full of the great quarrel he had 
had with that gentleman. He told me some of his 
experiences. He described a picture of his own — 
a picture of a Japanese girl, rather bright in colour, 
which had been hung in Leyland' s dining room, a 
room very richly decorated with old Spanish leather. 
Whistler felt that the Spanish leather was not in 
harmony with his picture : it was too low in tone : 
and he longed to be alone, that he might, by a touch 
of colour here and there, lighten the leather and so 


bring the room more in sympathy with his picture. He 
locked himself in, and began lightening the leather 
with Antwerp blue and gold. The leather rapidly 
became lighter and lighter, and more blue in tone, 
until at last Whistler told Leyland that he felt it 
necessary to clear the field for action, and that he 
might go to Speke Hall, his country house, for a month, 
and not come near the room until the alterations were 
quite completed. During that month an amazing 
thing happened. Whistler, together with a pupil 
who acted as assistant, set to work with great pails 
of Antwerp blue, and books upon books of gold leaf, 
to smother the Spanish leather all over. At moments 
they worked so frantically that it seemed to be raining 
gold. Their hair became gilded ; gold settled on their 
faces and on their lungs ; they choked, and sneezed, 
and could scarcely breathe. Whistler put blue paint 
on the walls, quite obliterating the leather ; and into 
the paint he crammed gold, and afterward more blue, 
and so on, until in the end the room was one glorious 
shimmer of gold and blue intermingled, a very beau- 
tiful whole — in fact, a masterpiece. There Avere 
gold peacocks on a blue ground, and blue peacocks 
on a gold ground, and peacocks' eyes and peacocks' 
feathers all in gold and blue. Leyland turned up 
suddenly at a moment when the room was half 
finished and in a state of wild disorder, and insisted 
upon seeing it. Whistler forbade him; but Leyland 


From a lithograph. 


*. « 

First state, from a lithograph. 


^^■'"'^'■i^^W^W? ■-:■ : ■mtsaaamm 


From a lithograph. 


stole in surreptitiously one day while the artists were 
at work. He paused on the threshold aghast. His 
rage knew no bounds, and he demanded of Whistler 
what he had done with his Spanish leather, which 
had cost him so many hundreds of pounds. Whistler 
turned his face, half covered with gold and blue 
paint, and surveyed Leyland critically. " Your Span- 
ish leather," he said, "is beneath my peacocks ; and 
an excellent ground, too, it formed to paint them on." 
Leyland was furious. In what sum was he indebted 
to Whistler for having wrecked his dining room? 
"A thousand guineas," promptly answered Whistler. 
"No," said Leyland: "I shall give you only a 
thousand pounds." To this Whistler made no reply, 
but simply stipulated that he should be allowed to 
finish the decoration of the room. Leyland was 
once more turned out; and the Master completed 
his operations, painting upon the last remaining wall 
a caricature of himself and Leyland in the form of 
two peacocks, one with its body smothered in golden 
sovereigns, and on the floor a mass of silver shillings, 
and the other prancing and triumphant. Thus was 
the story of the economy of the odd shillings recorded 
for all time. It was impossible for the work to 
be redone ; and so the picture remains in the dining 
room to this day, to tell the story to posterity. 

When Whistler's work was completed, he sent 
invitations to all his friends, requesting their presence 


at a private view of the Peacock Room. " I should 
advise you, my dear fellow," he said to Leylancl, " to 
revisit Speke Hall. These people are coming not 
to see you or your house : they are coming to see the 
work of the Master, and you, being a sensitive man, 
may naturally feel a little out in the cold." Ley- 
land departed, and the guests arrived, and all 
admitted that they had never before seen so exquisite 
a room. "Ah," said Whistler to Leyland a little 
while afterwards, " you should be grateful to me, I 
have made you famous. My work will live when 
you are forgotten. Still, perchance, in the dim ages 
to come you may be remembered as the proprietor of 
the Peacock Room." Time has proved that Whistler 
was right. 

The poor gentleman who had designed Leyland's 
dining room before the Master took it in hand was 
among the guests at the private view. He had had 
an idea that his own creation was a masterpiece, and 
the shock of seeing all his labour undone was so 
terrible that from that moment his head was com- 
pletely turned. 

When Whistler heard of the pathetic ending of 
the Spanish-leather gentleman, he smiled, and said, 
"To be sure, that is the effect I have upon people." 


From an oil-painting in the possession of 
J. J. Cowan, Esq. 



From a lithograph. 


Once we went to St. Ives in connection with a 
series of pictures for an exhibition that Whistler 
was to hold in Bond Street. There were three of us, 
— the Master, myself, and another follower, — and we 
took apartments in a little lodging-house kept by an 
old lady. Very small and very humble rooms they 
were, no doubt ; but many and charming are the 
memories that cling to them. Lodging-house or 
palace, it was all the same. The presence of the 
Master acted as a charm; and to us enthusiastic 
admirers it mattered not that the chairs were of 
horsehair and the ornaments aggressive, while the 
accommodation was very scant. Whistler himself 
loved St. Ives. The boats, the sea, the fishermen — 
all fascinated him. He did not like the country for 
itself alone : pictorially, trees and farms and pasture 
lands had no attraction for him. But St. Ives he rev- 
elled in, and he did much fine work there. Whistler 
was ever an enthusiastic worker ; but away from town 
there was no keeping pace with him. He rose at 
cockcrow, and seemed to be always full of the most 
untiring energy. By the time the first glimpse of 
dawn had shown itself in the sky, he would be up and 



dressed and pacing very impatiently along the 
corridor, screaming reproaches, instructions, taunts, 
and commands, all in a breath, at the somnolent 
followers. "Have you got my panels prepared?" 
- " Did you mix that grey tone and put in the 
tube ? " — " Menpes, have you brought any of those 
note-books with Dutch paper in them ? " — " Pshaw ! 
why aren't you all up ? " - " Walter, you are in a con- 
dition of drivel. There you are, sleeping away your 
very life ! What's it all about? " — " Menpes, is this 
the sort of life you live in the bush ? When I saw you 
in your knickerbockers yesterday, I thought you were 
going to be active and give us a touch of bush life." 
He would continue hurling taunt after taunt at our 
heads until he had got us up and dressed and in the 
dining room. There we would find Whistler dainty, 
sparkling, — one might almost say gemlike, — and 
ready for a day of incident. I can see him now as 
he stood there, that dapper figure no longer in the 
long flowing skirts of town, but in a very short jaunty 
jacket — almost a tomtit scheme, a straw hat cocked 
completely over the right eye, and dancing shoes on 
his feet. His hair was well groomed, and he wore a 
pleased smile. He had aroused us probably at six 
o'clock. By dint of much careful manipulation of the 
landlady, breakfast was ready by half -past, and Whis- 
tler was content. Our meal consisted chiefly of coffee, 
bacon and eggs, and perhaps fish. Whistler would 

From a dry point by Mortimer Menpes. 


survey the table critically, and then begin an elabo- 
rate description of how food ought to be cooked. A 
lengthy lecture was afterwards given on the scientific 
cutting of bread, Walter and I gazing voraciously the 
while on the rapidly solidifying bacon, and mentally 
speculating on the lowering temperature of the coffee. 
Whistler was a master of detail : nothing escaped 
him : consequently, at these breakfasts there was 
much for him to do. Neither did he hurry over 
things : the putting of a fine edge on the bread knife 
in itself occupied some time. At length, however, we 
began our breakfast, and for a time there was silence. 
Nothing was said. Suddenly the Master would frown. 
Our horizon became darkened on the instant. Break- 
fast no longer had attractions. The world was a 
blank. The Master was troubled. 

We no doubt looked our sympathy, and by and by 
Whistler told us the reason of his preoccupation. It 
had suddenly occurred to him that the landlady some- 
how was in a way neglecting us. She had not real- 
ised our position, or rather the position of the Master : 
she had not yet, as he himself picturesquely put 
it, " placed us." Thus, the bell was rung, and after 
a short interval the unwitting landlady appeared, 
somewhat blown after the fatigue of bringing her 
rather rotund person up the staircase, and scared at 
the sudden call. Whistler was very dignified, and a 
trifle severe. "Now," he said, "can you tell me 


something about the dinner to-night, and the coffee 
after the dinner? For, you know, it is the habit of 
gentlemen," — now the stout old lady was quaking 
and nervously shaking her head, --"it is their habit 
to take coffee after dinner. Well, we gentlemen " — 
with a comprehensive wave of the hand towards 
Walter and myself — " find ourselves here in St. Ives, 
and it has occurred to me that it would perhaps be 
wise of you to turn your attention to this little matter 
of the coffee. It is not to be a large breakfast cup, 
mark you, of coarse porcelain, but a small, dainty cup 
of coffee. Madam, do you think yon can do this?" 
The old lady, thoroughly demoralised by Whistler's 
flow of language, mumbled something in answer, and 
left the room as hastily as possible. " Now," said 
Whistler, " I think she realises better our position, 
and that we have certain habits of what is fit and 

After breakfast the Master would saunter out into 
the open with his long cane and his little pochade box, 
which last it was my duty to have always scrupu- 
lously cleaned and ready for his use, and make 
sketches of anything that appealed to him on the way. 
We used often to meet when sketching what we called 
"outside " artists, to whom Whistler was a continual 
source of wonder, and I often overheard their remarks. 
They could not understand him at all. "The man 
must be idling," thev said. " How can one work 

From a dry point by Mortimer Menpes. 


in earnest sitting on a borrowed chair and with 
nothing but a small pochade box and a grey-tinted 
panel? Real hard work necessitates a great canvas 
and easel, large brushes, and at least a sketching 

It was just about this time that Whistler had a 
grievance ; it was only a small one, but it worried 
him. The trouble began on the very first day of our 
arrival at St. Ives. It was all Walter's fault, He 
had once been an actor touring in the provinces, and 
had performed in St. Ives several times. During his 
visits there he had put on a jersey and top-boots, and 
had completely won over the fishermen, fascinating 
them with his kindly bonhomie. Now on going back 
to St. Ives he was received more or less as a friend, a 
"pal." To show their devotion, the fishermen would 
often make him presents of fish ; these Walter brought 
home to the landlady, and they were cooked and 
eaten. Now, this particular old lady did not know 
anything about art and pictures ; but she was very 
much impressed by this fascinating young man, and 
his still more fascinating presents of fish. She was 
enabled to procure fish every day for nothing, and her 
heart was completely won. All this annoyed the 
Master exceedingly. He was obviously much upset, 
On the second morning of our visit he drew me on one 
side, and demanded to know how Walter got his fish. 
I explained that he had been in a company of players, 


and had visited St. Ives before. Whistler interrupted 
imperatively. " Yes ; but why don't they give me 
fish ? It is the Master who should receive these gifts." 

The "fish follower" almost invariably went off by 
himself painting pictures, sometimes five and six a 
day, talking to the fishermen as he worked, for he 
really loved them. The Master and I generally found 
ourselves alone, and I used to watch him for hours as 
he worked. Sometimes he allowed me to sketch the 
same subject. Often he, too, would talk to the fisher- 
men, and it was interesting to see Whistler copying 
the tactics of the follower, talking of sea and boats, 
and gracefully playing round the subject of fish ; but 
somehow or other the St. Ives fisher folk never gave 
him fish, and Whistler was far too proud to ask. " It 
must be given," he would say, "of their own free will." 
What marvellous finesse, and tact, and cunning, and 
humour, I have heard wasted on those coarse fisher- 
men ! What veiled entreaties and flatteries ! Yet 
never a mackerel did his fluency bring forth, never 
a sprat. Many a time I have felt sorry for the Master 
as he turned away fishless and discontented. 

One day Whistler was out painting a shop; it was 
a fish shop with a blue band, one of the best things 
he ever painted. I remember the shop well, because 
I was bold enough to paint the same one at the same 
time, standing about twenty yards away from him. 
Suddenly I heard a puffing and a blowing, and look- 


From an oil-painting in the possession of 
J. J. Cowan, Esq. 


ing up I saw two men coming toward us carrying, 
suspended from a couple of poles, an enormous fish, 
a great flat, brown, coarse-looking fish about the size 
of a dining-room table. Whistler saw it, too, and, 
remembering the actor-painter, was inspired to buy 
the creature for the landlady. He felt that it would 
outdo in size, if not in quality, anything that Walter 
had yet procured. " Hey, men, what have you got 
there?" he shouted. "How much for the fish? I'll 
give you half a crown." — "Right you are, guv'nor," 
said the men, and they promptly laid the fish down 
on the ground, pocketed the money, and went off 
with the poles and the rope. Whistler was paralysed. 
There was no time to think, his purchase was so sud- 
den. As for me, I did not dare leave my seat for fear 
I should collapse : the situation was too comic for my 
sense of humour. There was the Master circling 
round and round this enormous flat fish, daintily 
probing it with his cane, lifting up portions of the 
outer edge, striking it, trying to peep underneath it: 
evidently he was endeavouring to discover which way 
up it was, for the creature looked the same all round. 
This went on for about ten minutes, Whistler con- 
tinually calling me to come. I dared not approach: 
I was convulsed with laughter. At last he shouted, 
imperatively, " Menpes, come here! come here!" I 
steadied myself and got up the best way I could. Of 
course, I knew that his object was to take the, fish 


home and impress the landlady. I asked him what 
he was doing. "Which, Menpes," he said, — "which 
should you imagine was his chest?" It was impossi- 
ble to tell. I went back to my work, and Whistler 
to his; and we left the fish on the pavement, never 
referring to the subject again. 

However, Whistler did not quite give up his idea 
of winning over the fishermen of St. Ives. Many a 
time, as we strolled along the beach, he stopped and 
talked with the men. One day he was out painting 
on the sands, and, seeing a fisherman mending his 
nets, the Master, still with the fish scheme on his 
mind, took the opportunity of explaining to him the 
beauties of the scene upon which he was working. 
" Ah, yes," said the fisherman, as he paused in his 
work: "I know all about that sort of thing. There 
was a great painter down here once ; he did a sketch 
of me, and after it was finished he gave it to me." — 
"Well, and do you value it much?" asked Whistler, 
looking up. "0, yes," said the man. "You see, sir, 
he was a great artist in London, a member of the 
Academy." This piece of information had not the 
astounding effect upon his hearer that the fisherman 
had intended ; and Whistler, feeling considerably 
damaged in his ardour, went on to put questions 
about the life this painter led at St. Ives. The natu- 
ral enthusiasm of the fisherman's answers depressed 
him still more. He said to me afterwards, as we 

From a dry point by Mortimer Menpes. 


were walking home, "Just think: this fisherman talks 
to me, the Master, enthusiastically about a man whose 
work can never live ! " 

Whistler never forgot this little incident, Neither 
did I ; for it touched me deeply to think that one so 
great should take such infinite pains in cultivating 
the admiration of simple fishermen, and, on failing, 
should fret over it, as the Master undoubtedly did. 

I always look back upon those days at St. Ives 
with joy. They were a simple and happy time. We 
were not always working. Often we spent a day upon 
the rocks, fishing ; and it was delightful to see the 
little dainty dapper figure of Whistler, among the 
somewhat coarse tourists and burly fishermen, spring 
about from rock to rock with the agility and lightness 
of a deer hound, a frail-looking figure, yet withal 
sinewy, tough, and muscular. Beside him most other 
men appeared to be so many clodhoppers. Whistler, 
whether indoors or out, on the rocks or on the high- 
roads, always wore the lightest of patent-leather 
pumps with bows upon them. Yet he was ever 
ready for walks in the country. I remember him 
saying once, " How much more suitable those slight 
delicate shoes are for walking in and for climbing 
about on rocks than the heavy, hobnailed boots of the 
average Englishman. I, in my slight dancing shoes, 
make far greater progress than they." These pumps 
of Whistler's had square toes : he always wore square- 


toed boots, because, as he said, he found the lines 
of them far more decorative. 

One day while we were at St. Ives I drifted off 
alone, and during the course of the morning found 
myself in an old parish church, — an old church of the 
Jesuits. I discovered on a board some writing which, 
I should think, scarcely any other visitor had noticed ; 
to the villagers, although many a time they must have 
seen it, it would probably mean nothing. It was an 
old record of an address from Charles I, who was 
staying at Oxford Castle then, at the beginning of the 
great civil war. I had happened upon this by acci- 
dent, and it impressed me very much ; for I realised 
then as I never had before how these old parish 
churches of ours buried away beneath the green trees 
close by the sounding ocean are veritable storehouses 
of the history of the British nation. This was all sen- 
timental, and when I returned to the Whistlerian 
atmosphere my enthusiasm was so keen that I actu- 
ally began to tell Whistler of the experience. He 
gazed at me for a moment in amazement, and then, 
shaking his head, said sadly : " Menpes, I can see 
that for you there is only one end. You will develop 
into a minor poet. We are here at St. Ives to study; 
to paint shops and seas and skies : we don't want 
sickly sentiment. Leave that to the minor poet by 
all means, Menpes." I suppose he was right. 

It was through Mr. Chase, president of the New 


From a dry point by Mortimer Menpes. 


York League, that Whistler next left London. This 
time it was to Brussels that we journeyed. Chase 
had come over to England for the purpose of being 
painted by Whistler. The portrait, I think, was 
never quite completed, although the Master worked 
upon it for some weeks. Chase himself was an artist, 
and a great and genuine admirer of Whistler's work. 
He was most anxious for the Master to go with him to 
Brussels, to see a big show of the work of Stevens 
at the International Exhibition. Chase admired 
Stevens immensely, and he wanted Whistler's interest 
and appreciation of his work. But Whistler was per- 
verse. He was in one of his peevish moods, and 
declared that he didn't want to go to Brussels : in 
fact, he decided that he wouldn't go at all unless I 
went with him. The end of it was that I received 
my orders at the last moment, and was given two 
hours in which to fly home, gather my luggage 
together, and present myself at Paddington Station. 
Shall I ever forget that journey? What a fiasco! 
The whole plan was wrong from beginning to end. 
Whistler really didn't want to go to Brussels ; he was 
overpersuaded by Mr. Chase ; and the consequence 
was that he was in a "naughty humour." I knew 
those humours well. At the station he created a tre- 
mendous excitement. The platform was crowded at 
the last moment with special messengers and tele- 
graph boys, who were despatched in all directions at 


Whistler's command. I never have had such a jour- 
ney before or since. It was full of incident. Directly 
the Master set his foot on board the channel steamer, 
everyone was working for him. He made them all 
interested, — stewards, sailors, captain, passengers, — 
everyone ! To begin with, when he crossed the gang- 
way he saw the captain looking through a telescope ; 
there was something consequential about his air that 
Whistler did not like, and he stood on the deck look- 
ing searchingly from the captain to the compass and 
back again for about five minutes. At last his gaze 
became so pointed that the people began to gather 
round, and the wretched captain was forced to say 
something. So he exclaimed, " What the deuce are 
you looking at?" That started Whistler; it was his 
opportunity, and he seized upon it. All day he had 
been searching for some object upon which to vent his 
spleen, and at last he had found it in the person of 
the captain. He stood there and talked for about 
half an hour, — brilliantly, caustically, stingingly. He 
wiped the deck with that captain before the whole 
ship's company, and left him nothing but a pulp, with 
only his gold lace and brass buttons to distinguish 
him from the humblest galley slave. 

Down in the saloon also things went wrong. Whis- 
tler disliked travelling at that particular moment, 
and everyone else was made to dislike it. The 
stewards waited on him badly, he said ; the food was 


From a dry point by Mortimer Menpes. 


atrocious ; there were too many passengers ; and so 
things grew up and up until he was in a fury. Bed- 
time came. I had been meditating on this agony 
throughout the journey, and found that I had not 
overrated it. The Master had to sleep in a four-berth 
cabin which was full, and Whistler occupied an upper 
berth. I knew directly I saw that cabin-load that 
there was going to be trouble. Chase had already 
turned in ; but Whistler made me wait until he was 
settled before I retired to my own quarters next door. 
I had left him no longer than ten minutes when he 
screamed out to me, " Menpes ! Menpes ! " T got 
up and opened the door. "Menpes," said Whistler, 
" there is a fat, fair person in here occupying the 
whole of the floor!" I looked down, and saw a 
j)oor old gentleman disrobing; he certainly was 
occupying a good deal of space. He was ex- 
tremely stout. After a few minutes' conversation 
I extorted from him a promise that he would retire 
in half an hour, and left Whistler somewhat pacified. 
I imagined that things would now go well; but it 
was not to be. Later in the night, when everyone 
had dropped off into sleep save Whistler, the door 
began to bang. He had left it open for fresh air, 
and had forgotten to hook it. It was a mild night ; 
but there was just enough movement to cause the ship 
to sway from side to side, and the door every now and 
then went bang — bang — bang — bang ! This very 



soon got on Whistler's nerves ; but he had turned in, 
and did not wish to turn out again. So he gripped 
his cane, which he always kept by him, and began 
to probe into the darkness beneath. The cane came 
in contact with something solid. It was the fat 
man. After a good deal of probing, he awoke. Whis- 
tler put on his eyeglass, and peered over the side of 
the bunk. "Did you hear that?" he asked in a 
mysterious tone of voice. " There it goes again — flip 
-flap!" Very soon he had awakened all the occu- 
pants of the cabin, that they might hear the noise. 
"Yes," mumbled the fat man sleepily: "that's the 
door." -"Tou are perfectly right," said Whistler: 
"it is the door; but what is going to happen? 
That's what I want to know." The stout gentleman, 
now thoroughly awakened, warmed to his task, and 
began to explain that he thought it must be the door, 
which, being unlatched, was allowed to swing, and 
that what it really needed was to be fastened. 
" Well," said Whistler, " since you seem to have 
thoroughly grasped the situation, perhaps it would be 
as well if you got up and saw to matters." In the 
end the poor old gentleman was made to get out of 
bed and fasten the door. And so it continued the 
whole night long. There were incidents throughout 
the voyage. 

Next morning I scented trouble, and took up a 
position on a camp stool a little way from the door. 

From photographs. 


It was interesting to watch the different people com- 
ing out of the cabin. It was only too apparent by the 
expression on their faces that they suffered. I war- 
rant that none of those men had slept a wink. The 
stout gentleman emerged in rather a hurry, as though 
propelled against his will by some hidden force in the 
rear ; he was muttering to himself, " I never heard 
such a thing in my life! — simply scandalous! " and 
shaking his fists. He passed me rapidly and disap- 
peared down the companionway. Shortly after a 
short, dark man, rather stout, emerged ; he flew past, 
evidently bound for the captain's cabin. Then, last 
but by no means least, out stepped Whistler, looking 
as fresh as a daisy, sparkling and dainty, his cane 
lightly poised between his finger and thumb. "Ha! 
ha! Menpes!" he said; "and how are things going 
with you? " He had slept well, he told me, and had 
enjoyed the night thoroughly, especially as the cabin 
had been cleared so early of its occupants. 

We put up at an hotel when we arrived in Brus- 
sels, and there, too, we had trouble. At the very first 
meal we had, which was dinner, Whistler disapproved 
the way the coffee was served. He had the head 
waiter brought before him, and then the proprietor, 
and delivered a lengthy harangue on the folly of 
treating carelessly people so important as ourselves 
and serving them in so unceremonious a fashion. 
Thenceforward Chase and I were not to drink coffee 


at that hotel on any pretence whatever. And I 
remember it seemed to occupy us rather — this crav- 
ing for coffee. We used mildly to suggest coffee some- 
times to Whistler in the hope that he would relax. 
"No: certainly not," the Master would answer 
sternly. " If you want coffee, you must go elsewhere." 
All this was slowly but surely beginning to tell on 
Chase's nerves. He was a finely-strung man, and was 
becoming worn out. Still, he was buoyed up consid- 
erably by the thought of Whistler's enthusiasm over 
the pictures we had come to see. 

Early next morning we started off to the Interna- 
tional Exhibition. Whistler was still fractious. We 
were shown the room where the pictures of Stevens 
hung, and Chase took Whistler enthusiastically up to 
them. The Master had worked himself into a certain 
groove of contrariness, and felt that he could not at 
that moment look at things from Chase's standpoint. 
It was his whim to regard these pictures purely as 
literature. Chase would say, " Look at the marvel- 
lous colour and the exquisite drawing of that woman's 
head." Whistler would half close his eyes, with his 
head on one side, place his hand on his hip, and say, 
" Well, well, well ! Pshaw ! Think of that now ! Go 
on, Menpes : you look at that picture over there." 
(That would perhaps be a very fair picture : I was 
then going through a craze of keying up my pictures 
almost to whiteness, and, I must admit, blankness.) 


From an oil-painting in the possession of 
J. J. Cowan, Esq. 


"That's the one for you. I am looking at this picture 
with Chase. Now, Chase, what do you suppose would 
happen if the ball of worsted were to fall from off the 
lady's lap?" The natural conclusion we arrived at 
was that the cat would spring at the ball. It would 
scarcely be natural of her to resist it. And so he 
would continue "rotting" the whole exhibition, 
becoming more and more frivolous in his remarks 
with each picture. 

At last this so got on Chase's nerves that he flew 
out of the gallery, and went to bed, ill; and there 
we left him to recover while we went on to Holland. 

Before leaving, however, Whistler and I went 
once more to the International Exhibition. Whistler 
strolled about still in the same unsettled state, until 
suddenly, as luck would have it, he came across two 
large frames of etchings, — one by Walter Sickert and 
the other by myself. I shall never forget the terror 
of that moment. I believe my hair all but stood on 
end. Walter and I had sent those frames off unknown 
to the Master, and I had for the time completely for- 
gotten them. Whistler put on his eyeglass, and 
looked from me to the frame and back again ; and 
for the time was speechless. Then at last he shrieked 
out, white with rage, " How dare you? " 

Chase from that moment faded into the back- 
ground of his mind. He had now another grievance. 
For days he never ceased to talk of this thing that I 


had done. I had sent a frame to the Exhibition with- 
out his knowledge. I had deceived him. " Why have 
you kept this from the Master?" lie demanded. 
" What excuse can you find for yourself ? I have left 
my work in London simply to come here for a whim 
of yours and Mr. Chase's. Do you realise that you 
have been behaving badly? Do you realise that I 
lifted you more or less out of the gutter, artistically ? 
I found you in absolute degradation, studying under 
E. J. Poynter at the Kensington Schools ; and what 
did I do ? Saved you ; cleansed you ; allowed you 
the intimacy of my studio. I even made a pupil of 
you, my favourite pupil. More than that, I made a 
friend of you : I gave you my friendship. Now, don't 
you feel ashamed of yourself?" I was speechless. 
I felt that I had indeed disgraced myself for ever. I 
had neglected the Master. There seemed no longer 
any excuse for my life. 

The scolding went on and on as we pursued our 
journey, and I became rapidly more and more 
wretched, until matters came to a head in Holland. 
We were sitting in a little beer garden ; I remember 
it well : there were comic songs going on. I can recall 
the refrain of one of the songs now ; it seemed to beat 
itself into my brain ; it was at a moment when I felt 
that I could stand the strain no longer. I said not 
a word ; but suddenly the whole trouble exploded. 
Whistler spoke to me in the same old friendly way ; 


From a photograph. Whistler with the curly- and 
Chase with the straight-brimmed hat. 


and I knew that the agony was over, never to be re- 
ferred to again. For Whistler, when he forgave you 
at all, forgave completely. All was happiness and 

That little quarrel in Holland endeared me all the 
more to the Master. I felt deeply what a great privi- 
lege it was to be his friend and pupil. 

Next day we had a long and delightful hunt for 
old Dutch paper. Greatly to our joy, Ave discovered 
a magnificent collection. Whistler was almost like 
a schoolboy in his delight over this find. We went 
halves in the buying of it, and purchased many thou- 
sands of sheets. 


Z 5 \